A war crimes trial witness said he survived six months of terrible abuse in a Bosnian Serb prison camp in Vogosca near Sarajevo in 1992.
The witness told the court in Sarajevo that in May 1992 he was first locked up in a Yugoslav Army barracks at Semizovac in the Vogosca municipality and then taken to a concrete bunker where he was also imprisoned.
“[The defendant] Branko Vlaco and another soldier drove us in a freezer truck to the [Bunker] camp. Vlaco got out of the truck first and entered the facility where they questioned us,” said the witness, whose identity was not protected but asked media not to reveal his name.
The witness recalled that once he and another prisoner were taken out of the Bunker camp by guards and told to “ride each other and the guards would then watch porn”.
Asked by the prosecutor whether they did as the soldiers told them, the witness briefly answered that they stripped naked and did what was asked of them.
The prosecution accuses Vlaco, as the warden of the Bunker, Planjina Kuca, Sonja and Nakina Garaza detention camps in Vogosca, of establishing a system to punish civilians held there during 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 the prisoners were allegedly killed at the camps and dozens are still missing. The prosecution alleges that Vlaco also raped one female.
After three months’ detention in the Bunker, the witness was taken to Planinja Kuca in Semizovac where he was held for another three months. He said that there was also abuse there.
During the six months he spent in the Bunker and Planjina Kuca camps, the witness said the prisoners lived in difficult conditions – they slept on concrete, were given one loaf of bread to share between 12 people, and had to use a barrel as a toilet.
“I believe that Vlaco could have prevented everything that was happening in the camps. He was their camp warden, after all,” said the witness.
He said that prisoners were taken to do hard labour and to be used as human shields, some of them suffering injuries or death as a result.
During the conflict, Bosnian Serb forces controlled the outskirts of Sarajevo and many non-Serb residents of the capital were arrested and locked up in detention centres in Vogosca.
The trial is set to resume on February 27.