Survivor of Bosnia's death camps faces his demons in witness box

Trial of Radovan Karadzic hears its first testimony – from man who lived through Serb slaughter of Muslims

Ahmet Zulic witnessed Serb soldiers ordering Muslim men to dig their own graves before shooting them dead or slashing their throats; he endured incarceration in a Serb-run detention camp where he was savagely beaten and other Bosnian Muslim men around him died agonising deaths; he was forced to drink his own urine to survive.

Yesterday, 15 years after the Bosnian war ended, Mr Zulic became the first person to testify at the war crimes trial of Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader accused of leading a genocidal campaign to make Bosnian Muslims, in the words of the prosecution, "disappear from the face of the earth" .

In chilling testimony, Mr Zulic quietly told the court how he was brutally beaten at the notorious Manjaca camp. "They beat me nearly to death... I had horrific injuries. If I wanted to show you I would have to take my clothes off," he told the court, speaking through an interpreter. "I was in terrible pain, there was water in my lungs."

"I am physically disabled... psychological stress and burden is catching up with me and getting worse. Even now, as I am speaking, I don't know what it is going to be like for me when I get home because every time I tell it I relive it again and again."

After being taken prisoner along, he was initially kept in a concrete garage with up to 90 other Bosnian Muslim men. Serb soldiers stamped on his fingers when he refused to make the sign of the cross, he told the court. Other prisoners were viciously attacked. "I could hear screams and cries during the night all the time," he said.

Dressed smartly in a suit and pink tie for his appearance at the court in the Hague, Mr Zulic recalled how he saw men around him die while crammed into stifling conditions in covered trucks while being transported to another detention camp.

"I remember two brothers... they took 10 minutes to die, which seemed to be a whole eternity to me. Some died silently – they just didn't have enough air to breathe. I had to drink my own urine because there was no water," he said.

The prosecution says Mr Zulic was held in Bosnian Serb-run detention facilities from June to November 1992, during which time his weight dropped from 90kg to 55kg.

Mr Zulic testified seeing Bosnian Serb forces shell villages in northern Bosnia, and set houses on fire as prisoners were shot and had their throats cut. His accounts were intended to illustrate the savage campaign by Bosnian Serbs early in the 1992-95 war to carve out an ethnically pure Serb mini-state in Bosnia.

Mr Karadzic, conducting his own defence, also cross-examined Mr Zulic, who, at times, replied defiantly to questions and upbraided the defendant for interrupting him. The judge also repeatedly urged Mr Karadzic to move on following rambling questioning.

The witness statements have been delayed for months after Mr Karadzic boycotted the start of his trial last year, claiming he needed extra time to prepare his defence. The former Bosnian Serb leader faces 11 charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and violating the laws and customs of war stemming from the 1992-95 Bosnian war. He denies them all and faces a life sentence if convicted.

Mr Karadzic's case is the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal's most important since the country's former president Slobodan Milosevic died in his jail cell in 2006 before judges at the UN court could reach a verdict in his trial. The cases cover many of the same atrocities.

In his opening statement to the court on 1 March, Mr Karadzic denied involvement in the four-year siege of Sarajevo by Serb forces, where 10,000 people died, and the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick