Ovčara and Velepromet: Places of Death and Suffering

In the evening of 18 November 1991, Andrija Hebrang on behalf of Croatia and Andrija Rašeta on behalf of the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) signed an agreement to evacuate and thus save the wounded from the Vukovar hospital. Journalist Siniša Glavašević reported on the event after the news reached Vukovar:

I am just receiving details about the negotiations that have been completed. The convoy departs tomorrow at 10:00 AM and will have a capacity of 600 patients. Its route will be: Vukovar Hospital – Priljevo – Lužac – Bogdanovci – Marinci – Zidine – Nuštar. Civilian shelters in Borovo, where there are approximately 200 wounded will be contacted tomorrow and will be included in the evacuation in the coming days. We hope that Vukovar’s torment has ended.

It turned out, however, that the suffering had only just begun for Vukovar and Siniša Glavašević. The agreement was circumvented and the young Croatian journalist was killed on 20 November 1991 at Ovčara. This former farm served as a camp during the Battle of Vukovar and became the site of the most horrific crime in Europe since the end of World War II. To date, the remains of 200 people have been exhumed there and many are still missing.

The horrific massacre committed at Ovčara often overshadows the existence of the Velepromet concentration camp in Vukovar. The camp was located in the warehouse complex of the Velepromet company which under Serbian rule from mid-September 1991 to March 1992 served as a collection center where prisoners and civilians were transported as each part of the city fell to the enemy. Little is known about the Velepromet camp even though it was the largest camp established during the Homeland War. According to information about war crimes provided to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, approximately 10,000 people, mostly Croats and non-Serbs passed through the camp, and several hundred are still unaccounted for.

An improvised detention facility was set up in Velepromet which held up to a thousand detainees consisting not only of prisoners of war but also civilians, women, children and the elderly immediately after the fall of Vukovar. The process of registration and distribution of prisoners began with the separation of women and children from the men. Each group was then housed in hangars and taken for questioning in specific rooms. In addition to men, women were also beaten and numerous rape cases have been reported that are difficult to speak of. Soldiers of the Yugoslav Army, Territorial Defense, Chetnik Serbian irregulars, paramilitaries loyal to war criminal Vojislav Šešelj and others were all identified as being in the camp. Uniformed people entered each building, called out individuals or just recognized and took them away, after which screaming, cries for help and both single gunshots and machine gun bursts were heard. Fear, horror and death reigned in this concentration camp.

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