RETURN TO UNCONQUERED BOSNIA HOMEPAGE
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MANJACA DETENTION CAMP: HELSINKI WATCH REPORT,
All text courtesy of Human Rights Watch, Helsinki Division
Copyright 1992/1993 Human Rights Watch
Manjaca was a Yugoslav Army camp before the current war. The camp was
located on top of Manjaca Mountain, south of Banja Luka, and consisted of
several barracks and about half a dozen large barns. The prisoners were kept
in the barns, without heat or bedding. After Omarska was closed in late
August 1992, many of its detainees were transferred to Manjaca. When
Helsinki Watch representatives visited the camp in mid-December 1992, the
prisoners complained that they were freezing despite the blankets provided
by the ICRC. Manjaca was emptied of prisoners between December 14 and
Aziz, a Muslim man who had been detained at the Omarska camp before being
brought to Manjaca, described conditions at the camp during his detention
from August 6 to September 1. The ICRC had visited the camp in mid-July and
conditions at the camp improved thereafter but beatings continued. According
"We were kept in stables, just like cattle, with nothing to sleep on but
concrete floor and mown grass. There were two [sections of the] camp,
divided by a wire fence and a mine field. One [section of the] camp was
filled with men from Kljuc, Sanski Most and Prijedor who came before the
attack [on their villages]. In the part of the camp in which I was held,
there were three stables. In one [of the stables], there were men from Sana
[i.e., Sanski Most] and in the other [stable], men from the Kozarac and
Prijedor areas [were detained]."
"In the morning, we would get a thin slice of bread and a small amount of
cooked food, usually soup or gruel. We would get 3,000 liters of water for
2,000 men, so it worked out to about a liter and a half for each man each
day. We used some of the water for ordinary cleaning. They also had
organized a bath every fifteen days--you would have about sixty seconds to
wash. We were allowed to wash our laundry every Sunday if there was water.
Men were allowed to walk out of their stable only with permission of the
guard. It wasn't so hard to get permission to visit another stable."
H.P., a forty-three-year-old resident of Prijedor, said that between 110 and
120 persons were transferred from a detention facility in sports hall in the
town of Kljuc to the Manjaca camp on June 27. According to H.P.:
"[When we arrived at Manjaca,] we were stripped naked and our belongings
were taken from us. We didn't have time to get dressed again before they
started to beat us; they beat us for five hours. My right rib was broken,
and not one man was spared. Usually, at any given time, about ten guards
were present during the beatings. We were beaten in front of the barn in
Manjaca. We were terrified."
H.H. a former resident of Kozarac, testified that he and his brother were
taken from the Omarska camp to Manjaca on August 6. According to H.H.:
"We were brought to Manjaca by bus, and we had to spend our first day
sitting on the bus, with our heads down and without water."
Both H.H. and H.P. claim that conditions for the prisoners improved after
the ICRC visited the camp. However, H.H. claims that the guards in the camp
confiscated the aid brought by the ICRC. He also said that prisoners were
"At first one loaf of bread had to be divided between twenty-four people,
but about a month later, the ICRC started feeding us. We even got vitamin
tablets. But the guards stole much of our food. The called us "the pets of
Europe" and took away our fruits and vegetables. They stole our shoes. We
were forced to work, chop wood and repair roads. We built an Orthodox church
on the grounds of the camp. We repaired their vehicles and cared for the
H.P. confirmed that conditions at Manjaca improved and mistreatment
diminished after the ICRC's visit:
"We were beaten [soon] after the ICRC came [to the camp], but they didn't
touch us after that. Then some journalists came, and the mistreatment
decreased. We were only hit five or six times with truncheons. Otherwise, we
were usually beaten with cables or kicked. They had some kind of metal on
their shoes, which made the blows particularly painful."
Although prisoners were beaten in Manjaca, H.H. claims that frequency of
beatings was less in Manjaca than in Omarska. Although it may be
attributable to better camp administrators, it should also remembered that
the Manjaca camp had been visited by foreign journalists and relief workers,
which may account for an improvement of treatment. H.H. claims that after
the prisoners left Omarska and arrived at Manjaca, "Our hell became better."
According to H.H.:
"Those who volunteered for work would get extra food. They sometimes beat
prisoners in Manjaca, but much less so than in Omarska. They only beat you
if you were guilty of not keeping your hands behind your back, for example.
We showered once in four months and it was freezing cold at night.
Conditions improved, and they stopped beating us once the international
public discovered we were there."