Monday, January 23, 2012


Moments of Truth at the Site of the Crime
by Dženana Karup-Druško

Esma S., born in 1976, was only 15 when the war came to Foča. On 7 April1992 she gave birth in the Foča hospital. Three months later Serb soldiers came for her. The child was left in the hospital, while Esma was mistreated for the next year and a half. She was raped frequently and the criminals who abused her include Dragoljub Kunarac and Dragan Zelenović. She was asked to testify against Kunarac at The Hague, but refused. She did not have the strength to confront him.
Esma was separated from her child for four years. It was only in 1994 that the International Red Cross removed the girl from the Foča hospital to the territory controlled by the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina and handed her over to Esma’s sister. In 1996 Esma returned from Serbia, where she had spent two and a half years after escaping from the Foča hell. She lives today in Sarajevo with her twelve-year-old daughter. Her husband died in the war. On 9 October [2004] she was present at a conference in Foča. She sat listening about the crimes.
Without Embellishment
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Republika Srpska, working together with the Outreach Programme of the International Criminal Court for Former Yugoslavia, had organised the conference in Foča on the crimes committed there during the war. It was evident that few of the Serbs present expected that day to hear what the organisers had prepared: the testimony given at The Hague by the victims; the presentation of the evidence used in the trials conducted against the Foča war criminals; and the latter’s own statements. Silence reigned in the conference hall, with faces displaying disbelief and shock.
After more than a decade, it took just a few hours in Foča for the unvarnished truth to be told about the events that had occurred at the start of the war, when all Bosniaks were deported, killed or imprisoned. It was heard by representatives of the local parties, police, courts and prosecutors, and by members of NGOs.
‘The mother stood next to the bus screaming: "Give my child back to me! Give my child back to me!" Her twelve-year-old daughter had been snatched from her arms - she would never see her again. The girl was raped countless times. They walked her through the streets of Foča and rented her out to the troops. Jasko Gazdić sold her in the end for DM 200 to some Serbian soldiers. She was never heard of again’, recounted the victims, Bosniak women. There was mention of the Partizan building, where for several months dozens of Bosniak girls and women were raped, aged 12, 14, 15, 24, 25, 34. According to one woman prisoner, a Serb soldier approached a woman sleeping next to her ten-year-old child in this torture chamber and raped her. She pressed her lips together and remained silent, fearing to wake up her child. Some women managed to escape from Partizan and beg for help at the nearby police station. They were handed back to the criminals.
Rape as a war crime was one of the themes of the conference in Foča. ‘Two girls were raped several times on one night in Foča, then taken to Miljevina and sold to Pero Elez. One was 17, the other 15. They ended up in Karaman’s house, where they were visited daily by Serb soldiers, who would select girls and take them upstairs, where they did what they wanted with them.’ ‘Like other girls I too was raped every night or every other night. It is impossible to tell by how many of them.’ ‘After he had raped me, Zoran Vukanović sat down, lit a cigarette and told me: "I could do much worse things to you. Anything I wish. But I won’t, since you’re the same age as my daughter".’ Such were the accounts of women who had survived the transformation of Foča into Srbinje.
Insufficient Time for Justice
During the first days of the war, the Bosniaks of Foča were kept in the KP hall. At the conference of 9 October they talked of torture; of being questioned; of the night when Zulfo Veiz was killed - the fall of his body into the Drina was heard in all the cells; of forced labour; of prisoners who were used as mine-sweepers; of hungry volunteers who enrolled to pick fruit and never returned...
Among those involved in war crimes in Foča were: Dragoljub Kunarac, Zoran Vuković, Milorad Krnojelac, Mitar Rašević, Milenko Burilo, Zoran Matović, Radomir Kovač, Dragan Gagović, Janko Janjić, Radovan Stanković,
Savo Todović, Gojko Janković, Dragan Zelenović...
The Tribunal representatives spoke in Foča about the trials already held, and about those where they had sufficient evidence - they named the criminals - but would not be able to hold them quite simply because there was not enough time. They repeated several times that local courts should take up these cases, and that they were ready to hand over the relevant incriminating evidence collected during the past years.
The End
As it turned out no one was quite satisfied with the Foča gathering. The Bosniaks did not hide their belief that too few criminals have been convicted, and that in regard to the trials already completed the prosecutors had no right to amnesty the criminals from some of their other deeds. (During the conference the Tribunal representatives said that the group charged with rapes was not charged with murder and other acts they had committed, simply in order to avoid prolonging the cases or watering them down). The Serbs wished to know why none of Foča’s Bosniaks have been tried for crimes committed against Serbs. They asked about the village of Jošane, where according to them 49 civilians were killed in 1993. The representatives gave a clear answer: ‘We have gathered all evidence connected with this case, but none of the local Serbs agreed to cooperate with us. This charge will not be raised at The Hague, since we no longer have the time.’
After the conference ended, the Serbs remained in Foča and the Bosniaks returned to their [new] homes in Sarajevo. Asked whether she would ever return to Foča, Esma S. said: ‘Never! Never!’
Interview with Slobodanka Gačinović, chief prosecutor for the district of Trebinje.
‘We shall prosecute the criminals’
Dani: The Tribunal representatives stated repeatedly that the local authorities should continue prosecuting war criminals, and have even cited several names, stressing they have enough evidence against them. What are you going to do about it?
Gačinović: We are already investigating several such cases. I heard today that we have two verdicts regarding Foča, and that they refer to individuals mentioned who have not been convicted but whom we can try on the basis of the Tribunal’s evidence.
Dani: Do you mean that you didn’t know about these verdicts before now?
Gačinović: I knew that some verdicts had been passed, but I didn’t know that they also included evidence against people who hadn’t been tried by the Tribunal, and that we can prosecute them. This is enough for us to proceed.


Interview with Branko Todorović, president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of Republika Srpska
‘It was shocking to hear about rapes of twelve-year-old girls’
Dani: What is the aim of this conference?
Todorović: There are several, but one of the basic ones is to show to the local community what the International War Crimes Tribunal has done in concrete cases. Local communities have developed ways of forgetting, in an effort to falsify and relativise the crimes that have been committed. But facts, arguments and the very thorough work of the Tribunal investigators present the crime and the criminals in their true light. We saw today that during the first couple of hours there was complete silence in the room. People were shocked by the scope of the crimes, of which some of them may indeed not have been aware. It was shocking to hear about rapes of twelve-year-old girls, about killings, bestial acts, terrible crimes. This in my view signals that people are beginning to face up to the truth about the crimes committed.
Dani: Those invited to the conference included many members of the police, public prosecution service and courts. Do you think that this will lead to concrete results?
Todorović: What interests us in particular in regard to these conferences is the reaction of state institutions, in this case of district prosecutors in Republika Srpska, since they have conducted very few trials. Yet they know the names of the individuals involved, the time and place of their crimes, the names of the victims, and one must ask oneself why the judiciary of Republika Srpska has failed to do its public duty. What is particularly unacceptable is that the reform of the judiciary in Republika Srpska has failed, despite the initial trumpeted promises, given that the judiciary remains completely uninterested in prosecuting war criminals.
These texts have been translated from Dani (Sarajevo), 15 October

Hundreds of Bosnian Serb protesters have prevented Muslim women from placing a memorial plaque on a building used as a rape camp during the war.
The crowds stopped members of the Women Victims of War Association from getting to the sports centre used by Bosnian Serb soldiers in Foca in 1992.
Many of the women held at the site say they were raped and tortured by troops.
Riot police, keeping the groups apart on Thursday, let the women leave the plaque and flowers at a site nearby.
The engraved sign described the building as the scene of war crimes targeting Muslim women.
Authorities in Foca, known as a hardline Bosnian Serb town, said the women did not have permission to install the plaque.
Members of the Serb Republic's Association of Wartime Camp Inmates were among the crowd of around 200 people protesting at plans to erect the plaque.

They told Bosnia's independent TV Hayat that they objected because they were not allowed to erect similar memorial signs in Sarajevo or Tuzla.
Slavko Jovicic, vice-president of the inmates association, told the station he did not deny the offences were committed in Foca, but urged the council of ministers to regulate the laws so such incidents could be avoided.
A reporter for TV Hayat said the Muslim women were "seen off out of Foca with insults and pelted with eggs and stones".
Foca, about 70km (45 miles) southeast of Sarajevo, was one of the first Bosnian towns to fall into the hands of the Bosnian Serbs in 1992.
During the 1992-1995 war, most Muslims were expelled from Foca, but others were abused or killed in camps like the sports hall.
A mass grave, containing up to around 350 bodies, thought to be Muslim detainees killed during the war, was found near Foca in August.
Radovan Stankovic

(Radovan Stankovic)

21 January 2012   Radovan Stankovic was arrested in Foca, four and a half years after he escaped from serving a prison sentence of 20 years in which he was convicted for war crimes.
Stankovic was arrested today (Saturday, 21 January) at 15:45 of the support units of the Police station in Foca on the basis of citizens' reports of being in the family home in Foca," confirmed Mirna Soja, a spokesman for the police of the Republic of Serbian. He heard and in the evening would have to be in Prison in Foca, where the 25 May 2007. The escaped. Soja stated Stankovic tried to resist and escape, but was arrested by police near the apartment where he was. Stankovic Court guilty that as a member of the Miljevina Battalion within the Foca Tactical Brigade of the Army of the Republic of Serbian ( VRS), participated in the enslavement, torture, rape and killing of Bosniak civilians 1992nd and 1993. year. He was the first charged with war crimes by the Hague war crimes tribunal handed over to the BiH. Court verdict Ranko Stanković was sentenced to two years in prison for aiding the escape of Radovan Stankovic brother. Appellate Panel reversed the ruling that the seven employees of Foca prison found not guilty for this flight and ordered a new trial. Stanković the final verdict in BiH was convicted because he was one of the organizers and supervisors of the so-called "Karaman's house" in Foca, which served as a detention center for women, girls and boys, and that Serbian soldiers were called "brothel." According to the verdict, in "Karaman's house" during the period from April to October 1992. The detained were nine girls and girls from 12-24 years. All are considered to court, both physically and mentally abused, and raped regularly in various ways, while I Stanković responsible for the rape of three women. After the escape Stankovic from Foca prison, there were doubts that he is in Serbia, which has a nationality, which received while in custody of the ICTY.

1 comment:

  1. I read this multiple times and would like to post a comment but cannot find the right words to describe what I feel right now. So many innocent people were hurt, so many lives changed. Some of us will find a way to cope with it and continue living but those that were raped, those that had their childhoods stripped away from them, I pray for them, I pray for us all.