|Amnesty International - Report
- EUR 63/22/97
Bosnia-How Can They Sleep at Night? Arrest Now!
Violations and abuses of human rights and humanitarian law were committed by all sides in the wars in former Yugoslavia. The incidents featured in this report have been chosen not only because they are the subject of known Tribunal indictments, but also because those believed to be responsible are among the indicted suspects who remain at large.See footnote 3
Far too common is the complaint, by all sides in the wars in former Yugoslavia, that the Tribunal Prosecutor's office has been unfair in the number of indictments it has issued. The justification for failing to cooperate is often based in the belief that the number of indictments against one's own nationality is too great given the extent that one's own side was the victim of abuses. The Tribunal will not collectively punish one side or another for atrocities; it is an international and independent court where individuals accused of specific crimes -- the worst crimes in the world -- will have the opportunity to establish their innocence or have their guilt proven beyond a reasonable doubt on charges based on specific allegations. However, some political leaders allow these and other suspects to remain at liberty in territories they control, where they still exercise power and influence.
It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that Amnesty International takes no position on the guilt or innocence of any of the persons indicted by the Tribunal. Each is entitled to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law beyond a reasonable doubt, not only under Article 21(3) of the Statute of the Tribunal, but also under other international law and standards.See footnote 4 Indeed, it is likely that some of those indicted may be found not guilty.See footnote 5
The specific crimes mentioned below are not the result of new information -- the international community has been aware for years of what happened during the conflicts in former Yugoslavia, and knows where the suspects who have been indicted for these crimes are. The High Representative, appointed by the United Nations (UN) and responsible for civilian implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia- Herzegovina, has stated: "International monitors and the media have documented and publicized the current whereabouts of a number of persons who have been indicted by the Tribunal, some of whom are believed to be working in a public capacity, including as police. In my last report to the Secretary-General, I noted that persons indicted by the Tribunal are believed to be living, and in some cases working in a public capacity, in the municipalities of Prijedor, Bosanski Samac, Foca and Vitez. There also continue to be reports involving the ongoing influence of Radovan Karadzic in the Republika Srpska."See footnote 6
Those indicted by the Tribunal not only continue to exercise power, their continued presence obstructs the return of refugees and displaced persons and their suppression of dissent and control of the media poisons the peace process. As long as they remain free to carry out those activities national reconciliation is being seriously jeopardised, the enormous investment the international community has made in rebuilding peace in the region could be in vain, and the entire peace process risks unravelling into a repetition of the horrors that shocked the world. It is shameful that human rights organizations now have to remind the international community of some of these horrors in order to encourage them to take action to bring those accused to trial: Arrest Now!
Systematic rape and sexual enslavement in FocaSee footnote 7
The conflict in Foca, a town in the south of Bosnia-Herzegovina near the border with Montenegro, began in early April 1992. As Bosnian Serb and Yugoslav armed forces took control of the town and surrounding villages, Bosniacs (Bosnian Muslims) and Bosnian Croats were rounded up and arrested or kept confined in their homes. Men were taken to a number of detention centres, including one where hundreds if not thousands were detained, the Kazneni Popravni Dom (KPD) prison in Foca; many are still "missing" from that prison, although it is likely they were killed. Women and girls were held in those centres as well as in places organized specifically for sexual enslavement or rape.
One place where scores of women, children, and the elderly were held in inhumane conditions was the Partizan Sports Hall. According to testimony of those who were detained there, women were taken every night to be raped, both within the premises of the Partizan Sports Hall and to other locations. Furthermore, women and girls who were injured because of sexual abuse or because of beatings received no medical care, the prisoners were denied blankets or towels, and given only meagre amounts of food. Two women reportedly died there due to beatings.
During the 10 days that one 12-year-old girl was detained at the Partizan Sports Hall in August 1992, she said that she was taken out of the centre 10 times to be raped; her mother was taken twice.See footnote 8 One night in September, a group of Bosnian Serbs took a group of women and their children from the Partizan Sports Hall to a nearby apartment building; three of them were Sanela, Fikreta and Nusreta.See footnote 9 Sanela reported: "I was raped by two of them. Then they brought more cetniks See footnote 10 in who wanted to rape me. I said no. They said that they would throw my child out the window. I cried and screamed, and they did nothing." Fikreta's four-year-old daughter was also taken with her; she was able to watch through an open door as her mother was stripped, searched for valuables, and as a pistol was put to her head. She reported that she was then raped by four men. "They told me they would like us to give birth to cetnik children... They told me 'we will do everything so that you never even think of returning'."
Rape was a systematic practice in Foca. The Tribunal has issued an indictment against eight men, several of whom are alleged to have directly participated in the repeated rapes over several months of two victims who were allegedly detained and repeatedly and systematically raped for more than six months. One, a 15-year-old girl, was allegedly held from July 1992 until February 1993. Both were held in numerous detention centres, including the Buk Bijela settlement, the Foca High School and the Partizan Sports Hall (in which they were held with scores of other detainees), as well as held in sexual enslavement in private residences with several other women, including Nusret Karaman's house and an apartment in the Brena apartment complex. The indictment describes how they were frequently gang raped, and the rape included vaginal and anal penetration as well as fellatio.See footnote 11
The eight men indicted by the Tribunal are accused of committing gang rape, systematic rape, sexual assaults, torture and enslavement of Bosniac women and girls. According to the indictment, "Acts of forcible sexual penetration of a person, or forcing a person to sexually penetrate another...can constitute an element of a crime against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of war, and a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions."See footnote 12 According to the Tribunal one of the indicted, who was the chief of police, not only decided that women should be detained in Foca High School and the Partizan Sports Hall and had his subordinates guard the centres, but also raped a woman who had complained about sexual assault.See footnote 13 As of at least August 1997, he was reportedly training Bosnian Serb special police near Foca/Srbinje. Another suspect owns or co-owns two shops in the town, where his name is displayed on the storefront, and he is reportedly the proprietor of two other shops currently under construction. A third man indicted by the Tribunal is the co-owner of the "Leonard" cafe in Foca/Srbinje. When an emergency meeting was called between representatives of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the UN International Police Task Force (IPTF) and SFOR in Foca to decide how to respond when this individual threatened the lives of an OSCE supervisor and his translator for the 13-14 September 1997 municipal elections, the decision was reportedly taken to request the Bosnian Serb police to ask the indicted suspect not to harass foreigners.See footnote 14 Journalists on assignment for the United States television network CBS found the same indicted suspect in the "Leonard" cafe on 26 August 1997; while they spoke in the outdoor cafe, two SFOR soldiers sat at a table in an adjacent restaurant.See footnote 15 According to the journalists, the SFOR soldiers would have had to walk by this indicted suspect to get to the table where they drank their coffee. France, which controls the land division of SFOR where Foca/Srbinje is located, has said that its position is "without ambiguity: arresting and bringing to justice war criminals constitutes a moral as well as political obligation."See footnote 16 However, when the journalists later asked a French SFOR captain on active duty in the area why SFOR had not arrested the indicted suspects whom the journalists had so easily "encountered", he responded: "We must have good relations with the community and not shock them."
Acts of genocide in Brcko
At the beginning of May 1992 in the northeast town of Brcko, thousands of Bosniacs and Bosnian Croats were systematically rounded up by Bosnian and Yugoslav Serbs and taken to a number of detention centres. Hundreds of detainees were systematically killed, including those who were held in the police station, a depository for sand and gravel, the former textile factory, the Partizan Sports Hall, the Laser bus factory, and the largest detention centre in the area, the Luka brick factory and port facilities. While they were in detention, many women were systematically raped, and some men were sodomized and forced to perform sexual acts on one another. Detainees were often ordered to dispose of the bodies of those who had been killed.
One man who was detained in Luka camp in early May 1992 reported that "people from the SDA [Stranka Demokratska Akcija -- the political party led by Bosniac Alija Izetbegovic] and [others] by last name were called to go out in groups of three, after which we heard three shots; and these people never returned... Through a door of the hangar which was ajar, I saw that they took these people and lay them on their sides, with their heads on the pavement near a chute where blood ran out."See footnote 17 The same man reports that after he was released from Luka camp, he was able to leave the area by signing a certificate which stated that he gave up any claim to all his property in the area and he no longer had the right to return to Brcko insofar as he did not return within three days.
The Tribunal indictment names many non-Serbs who were reportedly killed in the Brcko area in 1992. One of them is Kemal Sulejmanovic, a 64-year-old Bosniac from Brcko who was taken from his home by Bosnian Serbs on 4 May 1992. His relatives appealed to Amnesty International to help secure his release, but later received information from other released prisoners that he had been killed. According to the Tribunal Prosecutor, Kemal Sulejmanovic was taken to the Laser bus factory.See footnote 18 There, on 5 or 6 May 1992 his name was called out and he was taken away and shot. He was only one of many reported victims. Sead Cerimagic and Jasmin Cumurovic, on or around 8 May 1992 were taken from the main hangar building at Luka camp and reportedly shot and killed. According to the indictment, on or around the same day, Huso and Smajil Zahirovic, Bosniac brothers from Zvornik, were accused of fighting for the Muslim resistance; they too were taken outside of the main hangar building where they were shot and killed. On about 9 May 1992 Bosniac detainee Naza Bukvic was detained and questioned about the whereabouts and activities of her brother. Her interrogators beat her with police batons and a shovel and then killed her. Her father Muharem Ahmetovic, was also taken from the main hangar building at Luka camp and killed. The same day a Bosnian Croat or Croatian detainee named Stipo Glavocevic, who reportedly had at least one ear cut off and was covered in blood, was brought into the centre of the main hangar building at Luka camp, forced to kneel, and was then beaten. A guard was then directed to shoot and kill him just outside the entrance to the main hangar. On approximately 12 May 1992, an elderly Muslim man known as "Novalija" was beaten with a metal pipe, shovel, and wooden stick inside the main hangar building at Luka camp, and died as a result of the beatings. On about 18 May 1992, detainee Adnan Kucalovic was taken from the main hangar at Luka and accused of having a brother who was fighting with the Muslim resistance. He was then shot and killed.
These reported crimes form part of what the Tribunal describes as part of a policy "intending to destroy a substantial or significant part of the Bosnian Muslim people as a national, ethnical, or religious group."See footnote 19 In addition to killing countless detainees whose identities are unknown, one man is accused of ordering or personally carrying out the killing of all the victims named above. According to the indictment, this man "introduced himself as the 'Serb Adolf', said that he had come to Brcko to kill Muslims, and often informed the Muslim detainees and others of the number of Muslims he had killed."See footnote 20 Among other charges, by these actions, this man is accused of having instigated, ordered, committed or aided and abetted genocide. He frequently visits his parents' house in the Republika Srpska town of Bijeljina, which is under the patrol of Russian SFOR troops, and at times has been known to live there. The exact street address is available on the Internet.See footnote 21 Another man is also charged with crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, and violations of the laws and customs of war. He, too, is at large. The United States Ambassador at large for war crimes issues stated in a press conference on 18 September 1997 that both suspects were in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Attacks on civilians in the Lasva Valley
Serious violations of international humanitarian law took place from May 1992 to May 1993 when the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), the Bosnian Croat armed forces, attacked the Muslim civilian population in the towns, villages and hamlets of the Lasva Valley area in central Bosnia. One example which captured international attention at the time was the brutal killing of hundreds of Bosniacs, many of them civilians, in Ahmici and surrounding villages near Vitez on and around 16 April 1993. After the attacks, British troops serving with the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) removed seven charred bodies from the ruins of one house in Ahmici. Two of the bodies, of a man and a boy, were found shot dead on the stairs just inside the front door. Five other charred corpses, believed to be the man's wife and their other children, were found in the cellar of the house; their position indicated they had been huddled together before they died.
These family members were only some of more than one hundred victims from Ahmici. According to Behija Ahmic, her husband Ramiz Ahmic and sons Nazif, Asim, and Rasim as well as her grandson Amil were also among those killed.
"They broke into the house early in the morning and shut the women in a shop and led the men away. We looked through a hole in the wall and saw the houses burning and how the UstasaSee footnote 22 in black uniforms carried things...televisions, radios. There was shooting everywhere, the children were crying and people running around the courtyard... We went out when our house began to burn. I saw [some Bosnian Croat] neighbours...and asked them were my family was. They told me 'There they are, over there. Lying down. They're fine.' They laughed, jeered, and left... And my family were all on the ground, one across another, covered in blood, all killed."See footnote 23
In addition to killings, hundreds of Bosniacs were systematically selected and detained in the Lasva Valley area by the HVO because of their nationality, religion, or on political grounds, and held until they were killed or otherwise were forced to leave the area. Many of those detained were tortured and/or inhumanely treated, forced to dig trenches on the front lines, and used as human shields. Some were shot or beaten to death. Undefended towns and villages and the civilians living in them were deliberately attacked. Businesses, homes, personal property and livestock were destroyed and plundered, and civilians were forcibly expelled or intimidated into moving out of the area. According to the Tribunal's indictment, "The effect of this unlawful, excessive and wanton destruction of hundreds of Bosnian Muslim homes, personal property and livestock, not justified by military necessity, was to ensure that the inhabitants who had not been killed, could not or would not return to their homes and communities in the Lasva Valley area."See footnote 24
Eight Bosnian Croats have been charged for grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva
Conventions and violations of the laws and customs of war for attacks on villages within a 10
kilometre radius of Ahmici.See footnote 25 According to that indictment, "Every Muslim owned house in
Ahmici was burned, and many unarmed Muslim civilians were deliberately and systematically
shot."See footnote 26 In addition, The Tribunal prosecutor has indicted six Bosnian Croats who had superior
responsibility over the Bosnian Croat armed forces in the Vitez area, two of them charged
with crimes against humanity as well as grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and
violations of the laws and customs of war.See footnote 27 At least 11 of these men remain at large, and
although the Croatian authorities have announced their willingness to arrest seven of them and
transfer them to the Tribunal, they have refused to do so until the Tribunal can guarantee that
their trials will begin within three or four months of the transfer.See footnote 28 The address of an apartment
in Zagreb, Croatia reportedly maintained by the suspect for crimes against humanity who
remains at large is available on the Internet.See footnote 29 Some of the others charged for other crimes in
these indictments are believed to still be living in or near Vitez, which is patrolled by British
Killings, arbitrary detention, torture and forcible expulsion in Bosanski SamacSee footnote 30
At the beginning of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the northeast town of Bosanski Samac Bosnian Serb forces rounded up hundreds of Bosnian Croats, Bosniacs and some Bosnian Serbs, including political, economic, professional, academic and religious leaders. They were held in detention centres including the Territorial Defence building, the former police station, the elementary and secondary schools, and an agricultural building in a nearby village, Crkvina. Detainees were allegedly severely beaten with police batons, a large metal wrench, an automobile shock absorber and an automobile jack. Father Jozo Puskaric, a Bosnian Croat and Roman Catholic priest, was one of those beaten; one of his facial bones was reportedly broken as a result.See footnote 31 A prisoner who was held in Crkvina camp told a journalist in 1992:
"I think the most horrible night was the one between the 7th and 8th of May, when a Serbian special forces squad came to the farmers' co-operative storerooms in Crkvini [sic], three miles from Bosanski Samac, and shot 15 of the 45 people there. We were ordered to line up in the dark along one side of the room. Another special forces man shined a flashlight on us one by one, and the first special forces man chose his victim, hitting him on the head with his gun, and then shooting him dead. People collapsed on the floor in a heap, and blood poured across the floor. When he finished his first round, he ordered the survivors to line up on the other side of the room. He again began to choose and shoot his victims. In the second round of killing, he asked everybody their name and occupation, made his choice on those grounds, and then opened fire."See footnote 32
The torture and killings described above are what the Tribunal describes as "part of a widespread, systematic or large-scale attack against the Croat and Muslim residents of the municipality of Bosanski Samac" and four men suspected of committing these acts have been indicted by the Tribunal for violations of the laws or customs of war , grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, and crimes against humanity.
In 1991, there were approximately 17,000 non-Serbs living in the municipality of
Bosanski Samac. Most of them were either forcibly expelled or fled in fear of human rights
abuses described above; in 1995 the non-Serb population was estimated to be only 300
people. Two other Bosnian Serbs have also been charged with committing a grave breach of
the Geneva Conventions and a crime against humanity for the forcible expulsion of non-Serbs
from the area. All of them remain at large. As of October 1996, one man was reportedly the
deputy commander of the secret police in Bosanski Samac/Samac
and lives in a village outside
the town; he drives past the United States SFOR base on his way to and from work each day.
Another was at least until recently working as the head of the municipal government and also,
as a physician, works in the local hospital. Two others own small businesses in the town.
Another maintains a residence in Kragujevac in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; however,
he is reportedly currently imprisoned on criminal charges and faces additional charges for an
assault on two police officers.
Wanted for inaction: the international community
If people suspected of committing the crimes described above were residing in home communities of the international forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina, would leaders still abdicate their responsibility to arrest them? Time is running out before the planned withdrawal of SFOR, which has proved by arrests made in mid-1997 that it can secure the arrest of those indicted by the Tribunal when it has the will to do so. There is no doubt that such arrests risk short-term disruption and "shock" in the local community; however, failing to plan for and respond to such risks will only "shock" future generations in evaluating how the international community, faced with some of the worst crimes committed in Europe since the Second World War, lived up to its promise made after that war "never again."
Amnesty International says: Arrest Now!
. Republika Srpska and Bosnian Croat authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and authorities in Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, should stop protecting those suspected of committing these and other war crimes and arrest and transfer to the Tribunal all those who have been indicted by the Prosecutor. By appearing before the courts, the allegations which have been made will be able to be tested and the accused will have an opportunity to assert their innocence and be acquitted of the charges or have their guilt proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
. Given the reluctance and in some cases blatant refusal of some of the authorities in the region to fully cooperate with the Tribunal, the international community should not wait for national authorities to make arrests but should live up to their responsibility under international law to seek out and arrest those responsible for war crimes.
. All arrests should be made in strict accordance with international standards, including the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
At least one other Bosnian Croat who has been charged with grave breaches of the 1949
Geneva Conventions and violations of the laws and customs of war as part of the same indictment
remains at large and is believed to be living in an area of Bosnia-Herzegovina which is regularly
patrolled by SFOR troops. With more than 50 other suspects remaining at large and believed to
be in Bosnia-Herzegovina, those who want to see justice done cannot afford to rely on other
suspects taking the preferable route of voluntarily surrender. The international community should
demonstrate its firm resolve that appearing before the Tribunal is an inescapable destiny for those
indicted by it by instructing SFOR to Arrest Now.