The Massacre in the Village of Lovas

We didn’t know where we were going or what they were forcing us to do. When we arrived at the minefield they made us hold hands, spread out and walk through the field. We soon came upon mines. We knew we were sentenced to death.

With these words, Ivan Mujić recalled the horrific massacre of 21 residents of Lovas on 18 October 1991. He was seriously wounded but was lucky to be one of 30 people who survived the massacre. The small village located in the Srijem region of the former Vukovar municipality was occupied on 10 October and crimes against the local Croatian population who remained in their homes began that same day. As soon as the “Dušan Silni” (eng. Dušan the Powerful) and “Beli orlovi” (eng. White Eagles) rebel Serb Chetnik paramilitary units entered Lovas, they immediately killed 23 locals. For identification purposes, they also ordered the Croats to wear white ribbons on their hands and to hang white sheets on their houses.

During the occupation, the Serbs brutally tortured anyone they came across with batons, rods, cables and various other devices. They destroyed and looted the property of Croats and other non-Serbs. The St. Michael Catholic Church was set aflame and completely destroyed along with the chapel in the local cemetery. The peak of the violence took place on this day in 1991 when Serb troops forced 50 Croats into a field of clover that was full of mines. As one of the mines was activated and exploded, the Serbs simultaneously opened fire on the unfortunate victims and killed 20 people. The number of fatalities would have been even greater had a Yugoslav People’s Army officer not arrived on the scene. He stopped the massacre and saved the remaining 30 people from certain death. That same day, an additional 19 Croats were killed in the village itself.

Slobodan Milosevic was indicted for the crime in Lovas by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. In 2007, the High Court in Belgrade issued indictments for the  crimes in Lovas and accused 14 people, whom as members of the local civil-military authorities, Territorial Defense subordinated to the Yugoslav People’s Army and the “Dušan Silni” (eng. Dušan the Powerful) paramilitary unit perpetrated the crime even though they knew that there were no Croatian armed forces present to offer resistance or defend the village. The indictment specified that upon entering the village, the enemy forces opened fire uncontrollably and randomly, threw bombs in yards, houses, basements and other spaces and killed captured civilians, which resulted in the destruction and damage of civilian housing and other buildings and the death of civilians; and that they subjected the non-Serb, predominantly Croat population to degrading, discriminatory treatment and ordered the unlawful apprehension, imprisonment and interrogation of civilians, including their torture and bodily harm.

The defendants were finally sentenced in June 2012. Ljuban Devetak received 20 years in prison while other sentences ranged from 4 to 14 years in prison. Two years later, the Belgrade Court of Appeal overturned a verdict sentencing 14 people to four to 20 years in prison and ordered a new trial. It was completed in June of 2019 with eight indictees for war crimes against civilians in Lovas found guilty and sentenced to terms ranging from 4 to 8 years in prison.

Cover photo – Municipality of Lovas

Ana Raić Knežević: “Donosimo jeziva svjedočenja ljudi koji su preživjeli masakr u Lovasu. Još se ne zna tko ga je naredio”,, access achieved October 10, 2020,
Branimir Bradarić: “”Držali smo se za ruke i koračali, znali smo da idemo u smrt””, Več, access achieved October 10, 2020,
Marina Karlović-Sabolić: “Presuda za pokolj Hrvata u Lovasu: optuženi dobili manje kazne nego na prvom suđenju, JNA i ovaj put prošla ‘lišo'”, Slobodna Dalmacija, access achieved October 10, 2020,

TV Kalendar. Croatian Radio Television. author Nada Prkačin, editor Vladimir Brnardić, October 18, 2012

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