News 20 Nov 17

War Rape Victim Sues Croatian Ministry

A Serb woman raped in Kuline prison in the town of Sibenik in 1993 is suing the Croatian War Veterans’ Ministry for refusing to grant her the status of a wartime victim of sexual violence, which would give her compensation.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Kuline prison, on the right, with Sibenik in the background. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

The plaintiff, identified only by the initials M. K., will face the Croatian War Veterans Ministry before the Zagreb administrative court in December to challenge the ministry’s decision to deny her the status of a wartime victim of sexual violence.

M.K., who now lives abroad, was one of the witnesses who testified via video link at a war crimes trial before Split county court against former Croatian military policeman accused torture, rape and beatings at Kuline military prison in the Croatian town of Sibenik in 1993.

During the trial, M.K. testified that she was brought to the prison as a civilian and raped ten times.

In March, the court sentenced the former warden of the Kuline prison, 61-year-old Damir Borsic, and former military policeman and prison guard Miroslav Perisa, 53, to two years in prison each.

M.K. applied in 2016 for a status of a victim of wartime sexual violence, which according to legislation passed in 2015, provides victims with medical and legal aid as well as financial compensation from the state – up to 20,000 euros.

The status does not depend on victim having a verdict that proves the sexual violence, but it excludes the need for testifying before a committee made up of lawyers, judges, psychiatrists and doctors.

However, on February 28, after revaluating M.K.’s case – with Split court verdict still not passed – the ministry denied her the status.

“The Committee for Victims of Sexual Violence has not found allegations of the indictment in relation to sexual assault as persuasive, and concluded that the named person was not a victim of sexual violence in the Homeland War [the official term used for the 1990s war],” the court.

Since according to the law, there is no possibility of an appeal against the ministry’s decision, M.K. launched a case at Zagreb administrative court.

Up until December 31, 2016, the ministry had received 185 claims for victim status.

Of these, the committee gave its opinion on 160 cases, and based on that, the ministry gave 108 positive and 48 negative decisions, while in four cases it made no decision.

At the trial in Split, M.K. testified that the defendants used to come to her cell during the night.

“They entered the cell, the light having been put out. [Defendant] Perisa beat me with a baton, put a gun in my mouth and a knife to my neck. At night they would come for me in the cell and lead me into the room across the hall. They would turn out the light, strip me naked. They were silent and raped me on the floor or on a chair,” she testified.

“I couldn’t cry because I had no tears, but everyone in the prison could hear me,” she added.

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