News 20 Nov 12

Mladic’s Trial: Witness Recalls Torture in Foca Prison

As the trial of the ex Bosnian Serb army chief, Ratko Mladic, continues, a protected witness testified about crimes against Bosniaks who were held in the Foca prison in 1992.

 

Justice Report
BIRN
The Hague

According to a summary of the written statements given in 1996 and 1998, which was read in the courtroom, the protected witness, RM-063, was captured in the village of Pilipovici on April 26, 1992 by Serb forces and taken to the Foca prison.

During the next few months he spent in the Foca prison RM-063 said that his weight dropped “from 85 to 39 kilograms”. The witness said that prisoners were “beaten up and tortured” regularly, while “those who were taken away were never seen again”. 

In the late October 1992 the witness RM-063 was taken, along with a group of other prisoners, for an exchange, but he was held at the police station in Kalinovik for about ten days where the Serb police broke his ribs.

When asked by the prosecutor, Rupert Elderkin, whether he knew why he had been detained, the witness replied: “I do not understand it at all. I wonder why they did it”.

“I got along with Serbs nicely. We worked together and socialized with each other... There was no reason for keeping me in prison for so long. I did not have weapons, I did not kill  anybody, nor did I set any houses on fire,” he said.

At a suggestion by the presiding judge, Alphons Orie,  that he might have been detained because he was a Muslim, RM-063 said: “Only because I am Muslim. There is no other reason”.  

The witness added that the prisoners in Foca were “mostly peasants”, who had nothing to do with combat operations.

The indictment charges Mladic, the former commander of the Republika Srpska Army, with the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats, which reached the scale of genocide in seven Bosnian municipalities, including Foca. Besides that, he is charged with the genocide in Srebrenica, terror against civilians during the siege of Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers as hostages.

During the cross examination by Mladic’s defence attorney, Branko Lukic, the witness said that he did not know anything about the existence of the Bosniak armed units in Foca, as suggested by the defence.

Lukic then suggested that the Crisis Committee of the Serbian Democratic Party in Foca decided which of the imprisoned Bosniaks would be released from prison, but the witness RM-063 said that he did not know about it.

Last week Mladic’s trial heard from Francis Roy Thomas, a former UN observer, who said that the Bosnian Serb army terrorized Sarajevo citizens by shelling the city in 1993 and 1994.

During the cross examination by the defence, Thomas said that UN observers heard “rumours” that the Bosnian army shot at its own people in order to trigger international intervention.

Mladic’s trial is due to continue on Wednesday, November 21. 

 

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Background

Srebrenica: Genocide Reconstructed

In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.

War in Bosnia

Key dates and events in the Bosnia war.

Ratko Mladic: The Force Behind the Srebrenica Killings

The Bosnian Serb commander’s role in the genocide committed in Srebrenica is described in detail in many indictments and verdicts pronounced before local and international judicial institutions.

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