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Source: IHRLI

IHRLI Report on Batkovic Camp

463. Batkovic: (The existence of this detention facility has been corroborated by multiple sources, including the UN Special Rapporteur Mazowiecki, Helsinki Watch, and the US Department of State.)

Allegedly, Batkovic camp was established in mid-June, 1992. 354/ It was located approximately 12 kilometres north of Bijeljina, three kilometres north of the town of Batkovic, 355/ two to three kilometres from the Sava river, 356/ in what used to be an agricultural facility. 464. The main detention buildings were described as two barns 357/ or warehouses used for grain storage 358/, 50 metres by 20 metres. 359/ They were described as hangars by one witness. 360/ Two tents were used to feed prisoners. 361/ Showers and field toilets were located outside. 362/
The facility was surrounded on three sides by a barbed wire fence two metres high, and on the south side was a sheet-metal wall. 363/ People were kept from looking either into or out of the compound by piles of hay and straw. 364/ The main pedestrian entrance was situated on the west side, adjacent to a building which was used both as a barracks and as an administrative office. 365/ A vehicle entrance was located on the west side. 366/ A guard tower with spotlights was situated within the perimeter, on the eastern side of the compound. 367/ According to a different prisoner, this seven metre tall tower, and one outside as well, were always occupied by guards. 368/ 465.

The camp was operated by paramilitary forces involved with the Serbian Democratic Party, 369/ with "Cetnik" guards. 370/ It is claimed that on 13 July 1992, the director of Batkovic was an officer, who is identified in the materials. 371/ The Batkovic director's superior was alleged to be JNA Colonel Petar Dmitrovi_, the camp commander. 372/ It is reported that as of late August 1992, one Major Mauzer was the camp commander. 373/ It is also reported by the US State Department that Ljubi_a Savi_ was known as "Mauser". 374/ In a US State Department submission, it is claimed by a former prisoner that one Lieutenant Colonel Vasiljevi_ became the commander of the camp in August or September. 375/ On 1 September Major S_vic, an information officer, introduced a Lieutenant Colonel as the director of the camp, but did not give the Colonel's name. 376/ 466. In addition to guards, witnesses also described Muslim trustees, or "Kapos", the term used for German prisoners who assisted guards in World War II. 377/ 467.

Prisoner movements to and from Batkovic occurred both often and on a large scale. Because of this, and probably because of faulty estimates, the reported numbers of the population vary widely. Prisoners from the Susica River valley were alleged to have been detained in Batkovic as early as 30 June 1992. 378/ It is reported that there were 740 prisoners in the camp on 1 July. 379/ On 5 July, 84 of the more healthy prisoners in a facility in Zvornik were transferred to Batkovic. 380/ Approximately 450 Muslims and Croats were brought to Batkovic on 9 July from Zvornik. 381/ There were reported to be 700 prisoners already there on that date. 382/ On 15 July, another group was transferred in from Zvornik, this time numbering at least 60. 383/ It is claimed that three buses, with 70 to 80 men from Celopek, also arrived on this date. 384/ This transfer was arranged by Zoran Reki_, a Serb military leader, and reportedly improved the situation of these prisoners. 385/ About this time, the population was estimated to be between 1,500 386/ and 2,000 prisoners. 387/ It was reported by one man, held there from 18 July until 20 August, that 1,200 men were kept in his building, and the total population during his stay was about 1,700. 388/ Early in August, there were reportedly 1,600 detainees. 389/ In late August, 1,200 prisoners were held, according to by Major Mauzer himself, two-thirds being former combatants, and the rest being held "for their own protection". 390/ On 1 September, there was reported to be 1,280 men held because of their ethnicity. 391/ There was a reported population of 1,000 on 19 September. 392/

468. Food was scarce. One former detainee reported that for breakfast, prisoners received bread with butter, or an egg. Lunch and dinner were bread with soup or stew. Although they were served three meals, the witness claimed that the meals consisted only of one and one-half to two portions. 393/ Another prisoner reported that the soup was "funny smelling" and watery. 394/ 469. Abuse is invariably indicated in accounts regarding treatment of prisoners prior to September. According to one detainee, prisoners were forced to perform sexual acts with each other, and sometimes with guards. 395/ Detainees were beaten regularly until new guards arrived in September. 396/ Reports of the frequency of beatings vary from daily beatings 397/ to beatings 10 times each day. 398/ Prisoners arriving from Susica were beaten upon exiting their bus. 399/ Upon arrival on 15 July, another group of prisoners were beaten with sticks. 400/ Thereafter, they were beaten regularly. 401/ Thirty-five guards "had a go" at each member of a group brought in July. 402/ Beginning in July, 15 Muslims, considered to be extremists, were beaten every day until they were transferred to Doboj in September. 403/ In one incident, four men were beaten outside of the camp. Two of them managed to get into the camp, one was beaten so much that he could later not recognize his own father (a fellow prisoner), and the fourth man, about 20 years old, was killed. 404/ 470. Prisoners were also forced to labour. This did not excuse them from other abuse, and, as one prisoner reported, they were beaten while at work to make them work harder. 405/ 471. One detainee reported that it was not the guards, but rather soldiers going to or coming from the front that abused the prisoners. 406/ This same man claimed that POWs received that worst treatment, whereas civilian prisoners were not treated as badly. 407/ Another prisoner alleged that those prisoners from areas in which Serbs had suffered losses were most harshly treated. 408/ 472. Because of the level of mistreatment, many prisoners died. One man stated that during his stay, mid-July to mid-August, 13 prisoners were beaten to death. 409/ Another prisoner died because he had gangrene which went untreated. 410/ Five more may have died from hunger. 411/ Allegedly, 20 prisoners died prior to September. 412/ 473.

The ICRC visited Batkovic twice between 15 July and 23 September. One of these visits was on 15 August. 413/ US Congressman Frank Wolf visited on 1 September. 414/ Allegedly, guards hid prisoners under 18 years of age or older than 60 before delegations visited. 415/ The ICRC could not register prisoners. 416/ 474. However, beginning in September, the situation changed. Local Serb villagers, hearing reports and rumours of activity in the camp, protested. 417/ The villagers, led by Ilija Gaji_, owner of a vegetable farm and leader of the village assembly, demanded that the prisoners in Batkovic be treated as they wished Serb detainees were treated.

418/ Reports claim that by January 1993, Lieutenant Colonel Petar Dmitrovi_ was the camp commander. 419/ 475. Prisoner movement continued. Dmitrovi_ admitted that all of the detainees were civilians. 420/ On 1 October 1992, there was a prisoner exchange. 421/ Another reportedly took place on 6 October. 422/ There was an exchange of approximately 600 prisoners on 17 October for Serb POWs. 423/ Late in October, the UN Special Rapporteur reported the camp held 1,000 Muslims. 424/ Upon one prisoner's departure, on 24 November, there were reportedly 800 detainees. 425/ This prisoner claimed that 150 prisoners were exchanged on this date. 426/ On 1 December, a 450-prisoner exchange took place. 427/ On the same day, 174 prisoners arrived at Batkovic, making the total number of detainees reportedly 620. 428/ All of the prisoners were male, except two females who refused to leave their husbands and sons. 429/ On 13 December, 532 prisoners arrived from Manjaca. 430/ These prisoners were 159 Croats, 242 Muslims from Kozarac, Prijedor, and Ljubija, and 131 Muslims from Grapska and Doboj. 431/ Serbs claim that 131 of these were immediately taken to Sarajevo and exchanged, leaving 401 in the camp at Batkovic. 432/ However, as of January 1993, the ICRC was unable to confirm this exchange. 433/ On 27 December, 700 prisoners from Bosanski Samac came to Batkovic. 434/ 476. On 7 January 1993, in Dragoli_, 30 prisoners were exchanged as the result of direct negotiations between Croatian and Bosnian Serb forces. 435/ As of 10 February, there were alleged to have been 1,163 prisoners. 436/ Another 18 were brought from Zvornik on 12 February. 437/ It was claimed by one prisoner that he was transferred to Batkovic on 21 February from a prison in Zvornik. 438/ After he spent 10 days in Batkovic, he was exchanged with 47 other Muslims for 24 Serbs imprisoned in Zenica. 439/ It is also reported by him that there were 2,000 prisoners in Batkovic. 440/ On 15 March, there were said to have been 700 prisoners in the camp. 441/ 477.

Treatment of the prisoners by the camp authorities apparently improved. The Special Rapporteur noted that, during his visit to Batkovic in October, the prisoners did not complain of ill-treatment and appeared well. 442/ One newspaper article claims that the prisoners complimented the new guards. 443/ One new guard said that he felt he did not need to beat the prisoners. 444/ Detainees could wash with the faucets outside if the weather permitted. 445/ In December, prisoners "were not forced to work, but generally agreed to do so in order to combat boredom". 446/ On New Years Day, they received slivovitz, and soon also had televisions in the warehouses. 447/ Reportedly, several hundred prisoners were working six days a week in January, because they would receive better meals at work sites. 448/ By March, 300 were working outside of the camp. 449/ Some prisoners who had received money from relatives shopped in local stores. 450/ By March, any fence that had enclosed the camp was gone. 451/ However, 17 may have died on 26 March when their vehicle was ambushed on the way to work. 452/ 478. None the less, conditions at the camp were still lacking. The Special Rapporteur described the buildings as "cavernous" and "unheated", 453/ and there was no electric lighting. 454/ Dysentery raged, and sanitation was poor. 455/ In the winter of 1992-1993, the outdoor latrines froze. 456/ 479. There was no medical attention given to the prisoners. One source estimated average weight loss among the prisoners to be 20 kilograms. 457/ An elderly man died, and both prisoners and guards, unaware, left his body lying in the building for two days. 458/ Allegedly, eight prisoners died due to lack of medical attention, 459/ including one diabetic who did not receive any insulin. 460/ However, medical personnel appeared before ICRC visits. 461/ 480.

It is not known if the camp was closed, nor what happened to the prisoners who were last reported to be there.