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Source: Copyright 1992/1993 Human Rights Watch Helsinki Division
DRETELJ DETENTION CAMP: HELSINKI WATCH REPORT, OCTOBER 1992-FEBRUARY 1993
N.S., a fifty-six-year-old Serbian accountant from Mostar, was arrested in
his apartment the evening of July 16, 1992, by HOS forces. N.S. was detained
in Mostar for three days and then was transferred to a detention facility in
the village of Dretelj, in the municipality of Capljina. The Dretelj
detention facility had been a former Yugoslav Army (JNA) barracks....
N.S. reported that, upon their arrival at the Dretelj facility, he and the
other prisoners were met by Blaz Kraljevic, the head of HOS forces in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, who was assassinated--presumably by HVO forces--in early
August 1992. N.S. described his arrival at Dretelj:
"[In Dretelj], we received a 'welcome lecture' by Blaz Kraljevic, the
self-proclaimed HOS general. He said that nobody would harm us and that we
would only be interrogated. There were another twenty very young Ustashas
around himÑall dressed in black, armed with machine guns, knives, pistols
and clubs. They separated the men from the women and took us to a
warehouse--there was one [warehouse] for men and one for the women."
"About forty men were in my warehouse. They lined eight of us up and three
or four of them beat us for an hour, hitting us with rubber truncheons,
fists and rifle butts. The old prisoners [i.e., those who had been there
before N.S.'s arrival] had to teach us the house rules, which [included]
addressing the guards as 'sir'."
"The next morning, they ordered us to clean the area, and then we received
breakfast. We would receive two or three meals a day--a slice of bread and a
few beans or a bit of rice. Everyone could hit us, and we were not given
water. If we asked for water, we would be beaten."
"This continued after lunch. They would force us to sing Ustasha songs, to
bark like dogs, bleat like sheep. The guards were not from Mostar, but from
Stolac, Capljina and Ljubuski. Their nicknames were Max, Dugi, Sapa, Tonci,
Vinci and Idriz. At about eight at night, we would be taken back to the
N.S. reports that prisoners were regularly mistreated and humiliated in
Dretelj. According to N.S.:
"At night, they used to call prisoners out and beat them. There were three
of four women guards who were worse than the men. Their names were Suzana,
Marina, Irena--I don't remember the fourth."
"They forced us to kiss and touch each others' genitals. Once, they offered
me a cigarette and when I lit it, a guard beat me, saying a Chetnik should
not smoke. Then he put the burning cigarette into my mouth, and I had to eat
P.S., a forty-year-old man from Mostar was arrested by HOS troops and
detained at the Dretelj detention facility. Prior to his detention, P.S.
claimed that he was forced to sign a loyalty oath to the Bosnian government.
He recounted a similar tale:
"The easiest torture was when they made me bite off the top of a lit
cigarette and eat it. I will show you my medical reports. We used a pot as a
toilet. They made me drink from it."
"The men in the camp were from the same army unit, HOS, as those in Mostar.
They wore the letter U on their uniforms as [the] HOS [insignia]. People
were kept there for four months. No hygiene; the dirt was terrible. They
would undress a man, line the rest of us up and make us perform oral sex on
him, another prisoner. There were two Ustasha women, sisters, who liked to
force us to do this: Marina and Gorda Grubisic. They would make fifty to
sixty of us do this. We would throw up and faint. This is how days would go;
at any moment you would expect death."
B.K., a fifty-seven-year-old retired elementary school teacher from Mostar,
was arrested by HOS forces on July 31, 1992. She was detained in the
HOS-operated detention facility in Mostar and then was transferred to
Dretelj. According to B.K., Dretelj had been a fuel depot that was used by
the Yugoslav Army (JNA). B.K. claims that there was torture and abuse in
"Women [prisoners] were taken into one set of barracks and the men into the
other. There were about fifty other women in the barracks. In the morning, I
discovered that I had gone deaf due to the shock. My hearing recovered ten
days later. We were questioned about our political involvement, the
whereabouts of our children, etc. They were irritated with me because I
couldn't hear anything."
"Later, it was terrible. We heard the screams from the other barracks during
the night, and they told us to line up against the wall. Those minutes were
the most difficult because we always thought that they would execute us all.
However, all the women from my barracks survived. The night of August 2 was
the most difficult one. X was killed in the yard between the barracks. They
were beating him with clubs until he died."
"The food was terrible. We got a can of liver pät/ to share between three of
us at 9:00 a.m. At 5:00 p.m., we would get the leftovers from their lunch
but they would pour hot water into it. We got little water to drink and none
to wash. There were female guards. They would shout a lot, threatening us."
P.S. also described the abuses perpetrated in Dretelj:
"There were one hundred women and one hundred men [detained in Dretelj]. We
don't want to talk about what happened because they forced us to beat each
other. If they told me to beat myself, I didn't mind that. They told me to
hit my head two-hundred times and would make me do it until I did it hard
enough to satisfy them."
"We had five knives and five spoons for one hundred of us [prisoners], all
[of whom were detained] in one room. They fed us nothing, maybe two pieces
[presumably, of bread] per day. We were forced to sit in one room with our
heads down and our knees drawn up to our chests. Half of us couldn't get up
from this position and we were not allowed to help each other. The room was
fifty by thirty meters; it used to be a storage room for fuel. I was there
for forty days."
"I know the people who tortured me in the camp. They did this to me because
I am a Serb. I don't understand this: I would like to meet these guards and
talk with them. One man was my great friend, he couldn't hit me, but he told
others to hit my tailbone. One of the Ustasha, Luka Nezic, would sometimes
bring me water. He said, "I fight with a gun, not against helpless men."
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