Prisoners were physically and sexually abused, said the first prosecution witness at the trial for wartime crimes at detention camps in Vogosca near Sarajevo.
Witness Eset Muracevic testified at the trial in Sarajevo on Wednesday that the warden of the Planjina Kuca and Bunker camps – in which he was detained and abused – was the defendant, Branko Vlaco.
Muracevic said that Bosnian Serb forces attacked his village of Svrake in May 1992, after which 500 villagers were locked up in a Yugoslav Army barracks in Semizovac.
He said he was then taken to a concrete detention facility known as the Bunker.
“I was brought by a man who hit me and told me he would castrate me. Afterwards he took me to be questioned. I saw [defendant] Branko Vlaco and [protected] witness SV7 there,” said Muracevic.
“I saw that Vlaco was in charge, but both of them were fair. When I say fair, I mean they did not beat me, but when they were unhappy with my answers they would let me out, where I was forced to walk through a gauntlet where Serb soldiers beat me,” he said.
The witness said that Serb soldiers then brought between 40 and 50 other Bosniaks to the Bunker facility. They were all detained in harsh conditions on concrete floors without a toilet and were subjected to abuse and forced labour.
The Bosnian prosecution alleges that Vlaco, as the warden of the Bunker, Planjina Kuca, Sonja and Nakina Garaza detention camps, established a system to punish civilians held there in the period from May to the end of October 1992.
According to the charges, detainees were abused, forced to perform hard labour and used as human shields. Many of them were allegedly killed at the camps and dozens are still missing. The prosecution alleges that Vlaco also raped one woman.
Muracevic testified he saw bruise marks on other prisoners in the Bunker.
“One time a group of Seseljevci [Serb paramilitary volunteers] came to the Bunker and abused a group of prisoners. They beat them with rifle butts, hands and feet. They forced them to please each other sexually. I saw Vlaco was there and he did not stop it,” said Muracevic.
In August 1992, Muracevic said, he was taken to the Planjina Kuca facility in Svrake where he saw a group of about 180 prisoners.
He recalled that a guard beat him for three days in a row.
“In this facility, we had the same warden [Vlaco]. The abuse continued and at that time they started taking us to do forced labour more and more. I was taken to work six times and each time the warden decided who would go,” said Muracevic, adding that some people were killed while working.
In December 1992, Muracevic said, he managed to escape.
His cross-examination is scheduled for February 13.