Muslim women in Foca (southeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina) were subjected to a brutal regime of gang rape, torture and enslavement by Bosnian Serb soldiers, policemen and members of paramilitary groups after the takeover of the city in April 1992, according to a major indictment issued by the International Tribunal dealing specifically with sexual offences.
The indictment charges Dragan GAGOVIC, Gojko JANKOVIC, Janko JANJIC, Radomir KOVAC, Zoran VUKOVIC, Dragan ZELENOVIC, Dragoljub KUNARAC and Radovan STANKOVIC with crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and Violations of the Laws or Customs of War. It was confirmed by Judge VOHRAH on 26 June 1996. Warrants for the accused's arrest were issued on 26 June and were sent to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska.
The indictment is of major legal significance as it is the first time that sexual assaults have been diligently investigated for the purpose of prosecution under the rubric of torture and enslavement as a crime against humanity..
According to the indictment, the municipality of Foca was taken over by the Bosnian Serb Army, assisted by paramilitaries units, including some from Serbia and Montenegro, between April and July 1992. The soldiers separated men and women.
The former were mostly detained in the Foca Kazneno-Popravni Dom (KP Dom Foca), one of the largest prison facilities in the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The KP Dom Foca is one of several detention facilities mentioned in the Karadzic and Mladic indictment of 25 July 1995 under Counts 1 to 2 (genocide and crimes against humanity).
Muslim women, children and elderly persons were detained in houses, apartments and motels in the town of Foca or surrounding villages, and in short and long-term detention centres, such as Buk Bijela, Foca High School and Partizan Sports Hall. Additionally, several women were held in houses and apartments, which were run in the manner of brothels, by groups of mainly paramilitary soldiers .
Many of the detained women, some as young as 12 years of age, endured inhumane conditions of detention and were subjected to "humiliating and degrading conditions of life, to brutal beatings and to sexual assaults, including rapes (. . .)"
The detention and other abuses were carried out between April 1992 and February 1993, with the active or passive knowledge of the local Chief of Police, Dragan GAGOVIC, and other persons in positions of authority, as sub-commanders of the military police. On at least one occasion, GAGOVIC responded to a complaint about the ongoing sexual assaults by later raping the woman who protested.
Among the purposes of the assaults were to extricate information from the women about the whereabouts of their menfolk and the existence of any armed resistance; to punish and intimidate them; and for reasons based upon discrimination.
The indictment charges crimes committed against at least 14 victims, referred to in the indictment by code names and by initials.
These and other women were subjected to almost constant rape and sexual assaults; torture; and other abuses. According to the indictment: "The physical and psychological health of many female detainees seriously deteriorated as a result of these sexual assaults. Some of the women endured complete exhaustion, vaginal discharges, bladder problems and irregular menstrual bleedings. The detainees lived in constant fear. Some of the sexually abused women became suicidal. Others became indifferent as to what would happen to them and suffered from depression (. . . )"
"Many women suffered permanent gynaecological harm due to the sexual assaults. All the women who were sexually assaulted suffered psychological and emotional harm; some remain traumatised."
ONE YOUNG GIRL'S ORDEAL: THE STORY OF FWS-87
While all of the women mentioned in the indictment suffered horrendous and unrelenting abuses, the ordeal endured by the young girl referred to in the indictment as FWS-87 exemplifies the pattern of violations experienced by these women.
Only 15-years of age when she was first detained in July 1992, the Prosecutor has alleged that FWS-87 was subjected to at least eight months of routine torture, including gang rape, and enslavement at the hands of accused such as JANKOVIC, JANJIC, KOVAC, VUKOVIC, ZELENOVIC, KUNARAC and STANKOVIC and countless other unidentified soldiers.
FWS-87 was first detained at the Buk Bijela complex on the River Drina on or about 3 July 1992. There, she was interrogated by Dragan ZELENOVIC and three unidentified soldiers, each of whom raped her in turn. One of the soldiers put a gun to her head as he raped her. FWS-87 suffered severe pain during the attack, followed by heavy vaginal bleeding.
Between 3 and 13 July 1992, FWS-87, together with at least 72 other Muslim inhabitants of Foca, was transferred to Foca High School. FWS-87 was one of several women who, from the second day of their detention, were sexually assaulted, including gang-raped every evening, by groups of soldiers, either in the class-rooms or in nearby apartments. The soldiers consisted of members of the military police and referred to themselves as "Cosa's Guards", after the local commander of the military police, Cosovic. Amongst the perpetrators were the accused JANKOVIC, ZELENOVIC, JANJIC and VUKOVIC.
The soldiers threatened to kill the women if they refused to submit. Women who tried to resist were beaten.
Between 8 and 13 July, the accused Dragan ZELENOVIC led a group of soldiers that sexually abused FWS-87 and another young woman at Foca High School on at least five occasions additional to the one described above.
During this same period, FWS-87 was taken from Foca High School to a nearby apartment owned by ZELENOVIC on at least five occasions. There, she was raped by Zoran VUKOVIC and Dragan ZELENOVIC .
Around 13 July 1992, FWS-87 and the other detainees at Foca High School were transferred to the Partizan Sports Hall. While being held there, until about 2 August 1992, FWS-87 and other female detainees were continuously raped and otherwise sexually assaulted by innumerable soldiers and by the accused Dragan ZELENOVIC, Zoran VUKOVIC and Dragoljub KUNARAC with the actual or constructive knowledge of the accused Dragan GAGOVIC. FWS-87 became suicidal as a result of these sexual assaults.
FWS-87, along with other Muslim women, was transferred on 2 August 1992 to a house in Foca which was owned by a Muslim who lived in Germany. Some of these women were as young as 12 years of age. The house was run in the manner of a brothel by the accused Radovan STANKOVIC. The women were kept there until 30 October 1992.
FWS-87 and the other women held at the house were not only treated as sexual slaves but were also forced to work for the soldiers, including washing uniforms, cooking and cleaning the house. FWS-87 was also forced to clean and cook for other soldiers in other buildings. FWS-87's suicidal feelings continued throughout this period.
On or about 30 October 1992, FWS-87, together with other Muslim girls and women, was moved back to Foca and shifted different houses. They were raped and otherwise sexually assaulted on numerous occasions by the accused Dragan ZELENOVIC, Gojko JANKOVIC and Janko JANJIC.
Between 31 October 1992 and about 25 February 1993, FWS-87 was enslaved by Radomir KOVAC in an apartment block in Foca. She and other detained women were not only frequently sexually assaulted, including by the accused KOVAC, but were also forced to perform household chores.
On 25 February 1993, FWS-87 was sold by Radomir KOVAC for 500 Deutschmarks to two unidentified Montenegrin soldiers.
THE INVESTIGATION AND THE STRATEGY
The indictment made public today is the result of an investigation which commenced in late 1994.
- to investigate the operation of detention facilities in connection with the takeover of parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Bosnian Serb forces;
- to pay specific attention to gender-related crimes. As stated recently by Justice Goldstone: "We have always regarded it as an important part of our mission to redefine and consolidate the place of these offences in humanitarian law."
The indictment (at pages 2-3) provides personal details of the eight accused.
the accused's ages range between 27 and 41 years;
six held positions of authority as Chief of Police in Foca (Dragan GAGOVIC) or sub-commanders of the military police (Gojko JANKOVIC; Janko JANJIC; Radomir KOVAC; Zoran VUKOVIC; and Dragan ZELENOVIC).
Seven of them, including the six named above, were paramilitary leaders. The eighth belonged to a Serb elite paramilitary group.
Today's indictment charges the eight accused with a total of 62 counts of crimes against humanity; grave breaches; and violations of the laws and customs of war. These charges specifically relate to the crimes: rape; torture; outrages upon personal dignity; persecution on political, racial and/or religious grounds; wilfully causing great suffering; enslavement; and inhuman treatment.
All documents contained herein are for information only. They are not to be considered as official records of the Tribunal.
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