location: Military-investigative prison Lora used to be a military prison in Split, situated in the eastern part of the naval military base Lora. This is a building fenced off with barbed wire in which there were premises of the Military police and in the northern part of the building there were cells which held military and civilian prisoners.
time: from 1992 to 1997
description of crime: In 1992, in the premisses of the former JNA military-investigative prison in the naval base Lora, a prison camp was formed where a considerable number of civilians, mostly Serbs, were imprisoned without any legal grounds, on suspicion of participating in enemy actions against the Republic of Croatia.
Prisoners were being arrested and captured throughout Croatia, but some of them (captured soldiers from Serbia and Montenegro) were brought from Bosnia-Herzegovina. In Lora, prisoners were exposed to abuse, humiliation, physical and psychological harassment, torture, and corporal punishment – which all led to deaths of some of them.
Here are statements by some of the witnesses:
After about three days of our stay in Lora, a group of some 70 arrested Serbs from Kupres was tied and mounted on a truck which drove us in the direction of Duvno. Somewhere around Drniš, the truck stopped, and one could see s large pit beside which a bulldozer was at work. Some people with chainsaws in their hands were also standing by. Croatian soldiers who brought us there took some 8 — 9 Serbs from our group off the truck: brothers Ratko and Ljubo Milić, Dušan Nikić, Slavko Dragoljević and Čivčić who was deaf-mute. The names of the others I do not remember. They took them to the pit and killed them.
I also remember a young man named Bojan who they used to call White eagle or a Little eagle. He was tortured particularly hard. He was stark naked, incredibly emaciated, real skeleton. They mistreated, beat, and tortured him most of all. One morning when guards brought us breakfast, I noticed him lying on his back on his cell floor. His body was completely yellow. We were immediately returned to our cells. I heard them hammering a coffin and guards were whispering something in the corridor. After that I never saw him again.
In Split, we were taken to the perimeter of the military’s naval region where the Croatian Military police centre was located. Same as in Gornji Brišnik, we were getting off the truck one by one. Croatian policemen waited there to beat us. Three meters ahead of me was Petar Spremo. One Croatian soldier hit him hard on the head with a pistol handle, he fell from the blow, and hit his head against the curb and remained lying there motionless. I did not see him again then. The same soldier hit me hard with the pistol handle too, which caused my scull to crack in four places, so I ended up all covered in blood.
The number of people who passed through the Lora prison camp has never been precisely established, but some sources mention more thana 1,100 persons who were in Lora at some point. It is the same with the number of those killed in Lora. While the indictments raised by the Croatian judiciary operate with the names of two killed prisoners (Gojko Bulović and Nenad Knežević), some sources mention a much higher number of those killed. Thus the Committee for the collection of data about crimes against humanity and the international law SRY speaks of more than 20 persons killed and some of the witnesses who had survived Lora speak of about 60 persons who vanished without trace in Lora. Tonči Majić from the Dalmatian Committee for Human Rights speaks of several dozen people who lost their lives in Lora. Military-investigative centre Lora was under the authority of the Military police’s 72nd battalion and all the defendants were members of that unit. In December 2016, a monument was revealed in Split to the fallen members of the Military police 72nd battalion.
judicial outcome: County state attorney in Split on March 2002 indicted eight members of the HV Military police 72nd battalion for holding prisoner a considerable number of civilians, mostly of Serb nationality, without any legal grounds and on suspicion that they had participated in enemy activities against the Republic of Croatia. Civilians’ human dignity was offended, they were humiliated, psychologically and physically tortured and some of them were put to death. Indicted were Tomislav Duić, commander of the military-investigative centre Lora, Tonči Vrkić, his deputy, members of the intervention group-platoon Miljenko Bajić, Josip Bikić and Davor Banić, and guards Emilio Bungur, Ante Gudić and Anđelko Botić. The verdict passed in November 2002 acquitted all of them. The Supreme Court quashed the verdict in March 2004 and ordered a retrial before completely changed judicial council.
In March 2006, the County Court in Split declared all eight defendants guilty. Duić was sentenced to ten years in prison, Vrkić to eight, Banić to seven, and all others to six years in prison. In February 2007, the Supreme Court confirmed the first instance verdict. Bikić and Bajić were tried in absentia. Bikić surrendered, procedure against him was renewed and in December 2009, he was convicted to four years in prison. Bajić was arrested in 2010, his trial was renewed and in May 2012 he was convicted to four years and six months in prison. Duić and Bungur were tried in absentia. They were arrested and the procedure against them was renewed at their own request. Another procedure called Lora 2 was initiated against Duić and Bungur and in this procedure, the names of Bojan Vesović, Dušan Jelić and Vlado Savić were given as deceased victims. It was also stated that unregistered prisoners of war were tortured and sustained grave physical and psychological changes. Procedures for Lora and Lora 2 against Duić and Bungur were unified and in January 2017, a joint criminal procedure against the two was initiated.
In the Lora 2 procedure, also tried were Vrkić, Gudić and Botić. Vrkić was sentenced to six years in prison, while Gudić and Botić were sentenced to four years. Since all three had been convicted in the first Lora case, they were given a unified prison sentence – ten years for Vrkić, and eight years for Gudić and Botić.
Judicial proceedings in Lora were from the start marked by various obstructions on part of the judicial bodies. Publicist Darko Petričić and journalist Domagoj Margetić reported the Chief State Attorney Mladen Bajić to the Hague Tribunal for, as they said in their report, co-responsibility for war crimes in the Split Lora in the 1990s, because “prisoners were being arrested and interrogated following his orders”. Tonči Majić from the Dalmatian Committee for Human Rights confirms that Bajić, who was then military prosecutor in Split, participated in interrogations in Lora, and adds that there are indications that Bajić was in Lora at the time when prisoners had been tortured. In addition, as if years of procrastination with bringing the indictment were not enough, the case in the first trial in 2002 was assigned to the Split County Court judge Slavko Lozina, who at that time had the highest number of quashed verdicts and who turned the trial into a sort of circus and in the end freed all the defendants.