This story appeared today on several Bosnian news sites. It was first reported by Anadolu Agency
By Anadolu Agency 2013-10-30
So far forensics experts have the found the remains of 333 people in the mass grave in the village of Tomasica near the town of Prijedor in northwest Bosnia. Of those 333 the forensics experts have been able to determine that 210 are complete remains of victims, and the rest are incomplete remains belonging to 123 more victims. All this according to Mujo Begic, from the Bosnian Institute for Missing Persons and the chief supervisor at the exhumation.
Head of the Institute for Missing Persons, Amor Masovic told Anadolu Agency that the exhumation is continuing and that at this point it is far from over. Forensics experts believe that they have stumbled upon one of the biggest, if not the biggest mass grave in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The size of the mass grave as it stands now is 3000 square meters. The experts believe that the remains in the mass grave belong o murdered Bosniak Muslims and Bosnian Croats, killed during the campaign of ethnic cleansing in northwest Bosnia in 1992.
Witnesses claim that altogether some 1000 bodies may have been dumped in the Tomasica mass grave, however they are indications that some of the bodies may have been exhumed by their killers and re-buried somewhere else in order to cover up their tracks. According to Mujo Begic ; “given the total number of bodies found so far in Tomasica mass grave along with the one found nearby in “Jakarina Kosa, it´s safe to say altogether there could be as many as 700 bodies buried in the area.
What we want to do now is find the remains of close to 1000 people who according to witness statements were dumped here. We wish to remove all doubt about how many people were buried here, or rather find all the people that were buried here. Begic added that “the investigators and the forensic experts want to get as much done as possible before it gets colder and the rain and snow comes.”
According to Begic these people were killed on their doorsteps, on the street, and their farms… “The killers did not make any distinction beetwen men and women, children and elderly, they were all killed and tossed into this pit. The majority of the victims were executed.” According to Begic. Begic´s team is also expecting to find the remains of seventeen children, including an 18 month old baby, who was killed togheter with her mom grandfather and uncle.
International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has known about the mass grave in Tomasica for years, but they did not know the exact location. Prior to the exhumation, a two year investigation in order to determine the location of the mass grave took place. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has so far convicted 16 Bosnian Serbs to a total of 230 years in prison for crimes committed in Prijedor. Prior to the discovery of the mass grave in Tomasica , the biggest known mass grave in Bosnia and Herzegovina was in Crni Vrh in eastern Bosnia, where the remains of 629 people were found. Investigators are looking for 8000 people yet to be found, all victims of the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina.
UPPDATE: on 13th November Anadolu Agency (AA) reported that The Bosnian Institute for Missing Persons had confirmed that Tomasica was the biggest mass grave in Bosnia and Herzegovina and and most likely the biggest in former Yugoslavia and Europe since the end of WWII. Since the work on exhuming the remains of the victims started in September, the remains of 430 victims (previously 333) of which 275 are complete remains. Officials from The Bosnian Institute for Missing Persons said that they expected to exhume at least 200-300 remains more from the grave in Tomasica.
Mass Grave in Tomasica
On November 1, 2013 Daily Mail published pictures of the exhumed remains from Tomasica, along with a short video clip. The article can be accessed here. I have posted the images below. WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES!
BACKGROUND: Europian Commission for Democracy Through Law (VENICE COMMISSION) filed a Amicus Curiae Breif on the 12th of October 2013. This was in regard to the selection of January 9th as the date of the observance of the holiday of the Day of the Republic can result in the discrimination against the members of the Bosniac and Croat people and others who live in the Republika Srpska.
The background for this was a request on 20 June 2013 from the Constitutional court of Bosnia and Herzegovina to provide an amicus curiae brief in regards to the constitutionality of the Law on Holidays of the Republika Srpska. The brief was adopted at a plenary session of the Venice Commission held 11-12 october 2013.
The Venice Commission´s conclusion was that the Republic Day of 9 January was a holiday associated with one constituent people. Furthermore, the events it is supposed to evoke, especially the adoption of the 1992 Declaration to Proclaim the Republic of the Serb People of BiH, are controversial to say the least.
The commission states on page 10 of the brief that :
The choice of 9 January as the Republic Day is therefore not a fortunate one. It can hardly be seen as compatible with the main values declared in the Constitution of the Republika Srpska, namely “the respect for human dignity, freedom and equality, national equality, democratic institutions, rule of law, social justice, pluralistic society, guarantees for and protection of human freedoms and rights, as well as the rights of minority groups, in line with the international standards, ban on discrimination”
Moreover, instead of contributing to the promotion of a climate of cooperation, tolerance and mutual understanding between the different parts of the population of the Republic Sprska this choice is likely to exacerbate divisions within society. The yearly recurrent commemoration of 9 January, regardless of the intent of those having originally introduced this holiday, could indeed stir painful memories of the dramatic events of the early 1990s, thus dividing the society rather than strengthening the common elements of its identity. The principle of non-discrimination, as explained in the previous section, prohibits differentiated treatment based on one of the discriminatory grounds, provided such treatment is not justified by objective and legitimate reasons.
( page 10, paragraph 46 CDL-AD(2013)027)
On page 11 of the brief the commission states :
It is indeed likely that certain inhabitants of the Republika Srpska could feel uncomfortable, or even humiliated, by having as one of the five main holidays of the Entity a day so closely linked to the events of the early 1990s and, moreover, by being under the obligation, under the sanction of a relatively high fine, to refrain from working on such a day. Although no obligation to take part in formal celebrations of the Republic Day is imposed upon citizens, the mere fact that the Law requires all inhabitants to commemorate it as a free day can be seen as problematic and its application as having a disproportionate impact on individuals/members of certain national communities living in the Republika Srpska and on the concerned communities.
( page 11 paragraph 55 CDL-AD(2013)027 )
The commission ends by saying, on page 12 of the Breif that:
The selection of 9 January as the Republic Day by the Law on Holidays of the Republika Srpska is inspired by an event of particular significance for one of the constituent peoples only, which is painful for people belonging to other communities. Nevertheless, it is imposed upon all citizens of the Republika Srpska. This choice is hardly in line with the unifying values of dialogue, tolerance, mutual understanding and equality which should be the underlying basis for the choice of a national day.
On Thursday 10th of October 2013 Bosnian media reported that the local authorities in the town of Visegrad decided to hold off on the planned decision about the expropriation of a house on Pionirska Street in which on June 14 1992, 53 people were killed in a live pyre. The decision adds to the sense of uncertainty felt by the families of the victims. In 2010 the government of Republika Srpska decided that it was in the public interest to build and expand the roads and regulation of riverbeds. That would mean the destruction of what is left of the house on Pionirska Street. According to victim´s associations in Bosnia, this is an attempt at physically removing any traces of war crimes committed during the Bosnian War. According to Suljo Fejzic, head of the Visegrad municipality someone has deliberately extended the zone of expropriation by 4-5 meters at the exact place where the house is. Also it is the only house scheduled for destruction. The families of the victims say that they will continue the struggle. Bakira Hasecic, president of the Women Victims of War Association said that they don´t mind the development plans and the expropriation but that they will not allow that a location they and the victims’ families consider sacred be a part of it.
During the sentencing of Milan and Sredoje Lukic at the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, for crimes commited in Visegrad the presiding Judge Patrick Robinson noted:
In the all too long, sad and wretched history of man’s inhumanity to man, the Pionirska Street and Bikavac fires must rank high. At the close of the twentieth century, a century marked by war and bloodshed on a colossal scale, these horrific events stand out for the viciousness of the incendiary attack, for the obvious premeditation and calculation that defined it, for the sheer callousness and brutality of herding, trapping and locking the victims in the two houses, thereby rendering them helpless in the ensuing inferno, and for the degree of pain and suffering inflicted on the victims as they were burnt alive. There is a unique cruelty in expunging all traces of the individual victims which must heighten the gravity ascribed to these crimes.
In total, the Trial Chamber found Milan Lukic responsible for the deaths of at least 132 people in Visegrad, that is the figure that the prosecution could prove, in reality he is most likely responsible for many more deaths in Visegrad. Most experts, journalists and human rights activists believe that Milan Lukic probably killed more people during the Bosnian War than anyone else. According to the Trial Chamber Lukic committed these crimes against vulnerable victims whom he had rendered helpless. Among the victims of the Pionirska street fire were a seventy-five-year-old woman, six children between the ages of two and four years old, and a two-day-old infant. The Trial Chamber also noted that survivors of the Poinirska Street and Bikavac fires now live with permanent physical injuries and with the mental anguish that accompanies those who have witnessed and survived the brutality and violence which Milan Lukic inflicted upon them. The survivors were forced to leave family members or neighbors behind as they tried to escape the inferno.
The background of the Pionirska Street fire was the ethnic cleansing of the village Kortinik. On 13th of June 1992 a number of Serb militiamen from neighboring villages arrived at Koritnik and told the Bosniak (Muslim) residents of that village that they were forced to leave, the residents would be transferred to the Bosnian government controlled area in Kladanj. That was in fact a ruse, the Serb militiamen had no intention of ever letting the 60 or so Bosniak inhabitants of Koritnik leave Visegrad area alive.
The next day the Bosniak residents of Koritnik waited for the buses to arrive to take them to Kladanj, as the buses failed to arrive the residents walked southwards to the neighbouring village of Greben, where they continued to wait for the buses. When the buses still failed to arrive, the group continued southwards on foot to the town of Visegrad.
Once they had reached Visegrad they headed for the police station, where the policemen told them to go to the nearest Red Cross building, once there the group found the building closed and decided to wait in front of a hotel. According to testimony given by survivors they were told by a young man who emereged from the hotel that all the buses for Kladanj had left earlier that day and that it would be best for them to spend the night in one of the abandoned Bosniak-owned houses on Pionirska street. The vitnesses identified the man as Mitar Vasiljevic.
When the Koritnik group arrived on Pionirska Street, they gathered at a vacant house owned by Jusuf Memic, there they were addressed by Mitar Vasiljevic who told them that a convoy would be available the next day to take them out of Visegrad. They could stay at the Memic house overnight. Vasiljevic also assured the group that he would guarantee their safety while they were in the house, should anyone try to harass them or question as to why they were there. Vasiljevic handed a piece of paper to one of the members of the group, which served as a form of guarantee that they were safe their overnight.
Approximately one hour later Milan Lukic and Sredoje Lukic came to the house, armed and dressed in the olive-green fatigues of the former JNA ( Yugoslav People´s Army) and sporting serb-nationalist insignia instead of the former JNA red star, along with them was a man named Milan Susnjar called “Laco” and Mitar Vasiljevic. They ordered those from the Kortinik group to hand over their valuables and palce them in a rag which Milan Lukic had placed on the table in the house, according to the testimony of one of the survivors Lukic; “threatened to sever the fingers, cut the throats and put a bullet in the head of anyone who withheld their valuables”
After that the women and men were segregated from each other, and ordered into adjacent rooms where they were strip searched. Several of the survivors as well as Huso Kurspahic whose father had survived the fire testified that Milan Lukic removed a number of women from the house, including Jasmina Vila, Ifeta Kurspahic and Mujesira Kurspahic. According to the testimony of one of the survivors Milan Lukic recognised Jasmina Vila and addressed her saying, “How come you’re here?” Milan Lukic then hugged her and took her and the other women out of the house. The women returned an hour later. They were crying, and one of the women told persons in the group that they had been raped. According to testimony the women looked terrible, “they wouldn’t say anything,neither Ifeta nor Mujesira, and Jasmina Vila only asked for a pill to treat her headache”
During the trial of Mitar Vasiljevic one of the women testified that:
The girls were taken out, and when they returned, they didn’t look quite in shape. Jasmina wanted me to give her a tablet. And we asked them what had happened, and they said, well, you know what happened. They didn’t want to tell anything. And Ifeta, when she came back, she also looked bad, she was crying, and she said, your turn will also come. […] they managed to tell us that they had been raped, and we could see for ourselves, you know, how they looked after they had been mistreated. And she told — they told — they told us to try and escape, because apparently Milan Lukić and others told them that we would all be raped.
According to testimony the men, Milan Lukic, Sredoje Lukic and Mitar Vasiljevic, returned to Jusuf Memic’s house between 9.30 and 11.30 p.m, it was getting dark and there was no light inside the house, so Lukic and his men ordered the Koritnik group to move to the house of Adem Omeragic. They were told that the “transfer was necessary for their safety” and that they did not need to put their shoes on, Lukic aslo told them to leave their luggage, so that it could be searched for weapons. Adem Omeragic’s house was about 20 to 30 metres away and situated next to a creek that runs in the area of Pionirska street.
The group from Koritnik was herded into into a room on the ground floor of the Omeragic house. One of the survivors testified that she was shoved into the room by one of the Serbs who pushed the butt of his rifle against her back and said, “Get in, balija. What are you waiting for? Where is Alija now to help you?”
One of the witness say that the “carpets on the floor of the room were covered with a sticky substance that smelled foul and caused some persons inside the room to choke. The room was extremely crowded with persons” After about half an hour an explosive device was placed into the room by Milan Lukic, after he placed the device into the room he started firing bursts into the room from his automatic weapon. One of the survivors that had fallen asleep was woken up by the sounds of screaming. One of the survivors managed to make their way through the packed burning room to the window and escape the inferno. The explosive device put there by Milan Lukic set the carpets on fire immediately the flames were up to the ceiling and everything was burning. Half an hour after the fire started the door opened and someone threw a hand grenade into the room.
One of the protected witnesses that had seen the fire and the events unfold gave a statement in 2000 where she described what she saw :
It was in the evening close to the curfew time and I was walking towards the house where I was staying. I saw a large number of people /women, children and old men/ from the nearby villages, majority were from the village of Koritnik, as well as Muslims from Pionirska street who were arrested earlier, forced into a house of Adem Omeragic which was some 7-8 metres from the road. I could see a lot of members of Lukic’s group, him included, around the house. I saw that they were throwing various devices for setting fire into the house including hand grenades and gasoline. I went to my house very fast. They were also shooting bursts of fire into the house and that could be heard for more than an hour. From the balcony I could see smoke and fire and I could hear the screams.
One of those that managed to escape the fire said that she smashed one of the window panes, but as she tried to get out the window her escape was obstructed by a mesh in the window. Her son who was with her pushed her out from behind the window and while half of her body was out of the window she heard a hand grenade explode. She felt something wet on her hand and felt as if her hand was a bit paralyzed. Shrapnel from the grenade had hit her in the neck and on her head and hand. She stated: “I couldn’t feel my body […] I sort of felt as if half my face was missing”
Once out of the house, those that had managed to escape could not run away as Lukic and his men were still around, so they hid behind trees and in the creek below the Omeragic house, two of the survivors moved along the creek about twenty meters until they came to a bridge under which they spent the night in the sewage water that flowed through the creek. According to their testimony they could hear screams and gunshots coming from the direction of the Omeragic house for about an hour to an hour and a half after they made their escape.
In 2008 during the trial of Milan and Sredoje Lukic, Huso Kurspahic, a retired Bosniak policeman from Visgerad, decided to forgo the protective measures and testify openly about the live pyre in the Pionirska Street in Visegrad and other crimes committed in 1992 Milan and Sredoje Lukic were charged with. Huso Kurspahic had lost lost his mother, two sisters and almost fifty other relatives who were burned alive in the Pionirska Street. In his testimony Kurspahic told the prosecution what his father had told him, that; Milan and Sredoje Lukic took some seventy Bosniaks from the village of Koritnik – including a newborn baby – to a house, shut them in and set the house on fire. As Kurspahic said during the trial; his father left him the truth about the event as his legacy.
On july 20th 2009 The Trial Chamber found Milan Lukic guilty of committing persecution, murder, extermination and other inhumane acts as crimes against humanity, and murder and cruel treatment as violations of the laws or customs of war in relation to six distinct incidents, two of those were the fire on Pionirska Street where 59 people were killed and the fire on Bikavac where at least 60 people were killed. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Trial Chamber convicted his cousin Sredoje Lukic of aiding and abetting the crimes committed during the Pionirska Street Incident, except for extermination, and for having beaten detainees at Uzamnica Camp. He was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment.
In 2012 the Appeals Chamber upheld Milan Lukic sentence of life imprisonment for crimes commited in Visegrad. While Sredoje Lukic´s sentence was reduced from 30 years imprisonment to 27 years.
Mitar Vasiljevic was convicted to 20 years imprisonment for aiding and abetting persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds (crimes against humanity) and murder (violations of the laws or customs of war) on 29th on november 2002. On 2004 The Appeals Chamber reduced his sentence to 15 years.
According to the International Criminal Tribunal
for the Former Yugoslavia,some of the victims that
were burned alive included:
– Kurspahic, Aisa – Approximately 49 years old.
– Kurspahic, Aida – Approximately 12 years old.
– Kurspahic, Ajka – Approximately 62 years old.
– Kurspahic, Alija – Approximately 55 years old.
– Kurspahic, Almir – Approximately 10 years old.
– Kurspahic, Aner – Approximately 6 years old.
– Kurspahic, Becar – Approximately 52 years old.
– Kurspahic, Bisera – Approximately 50 years old.
– Kurspahic, Bula – Approximately 58 years old.
– Kurspahic, Dzheva – Approximately 22 years old.
– Kurspahic, Enesa – Approximately 2 years old.
– Kurspahic, first name unknown –
Approximately 2 days old.
– Kurspahic, Hasa – Approximately 18 years old
– Kurspahic, Hajrija – Approximately 60 years old.
– Kurspahic, Halida – Approximately 10 years old.
– Kurspahic, Hana – Approximately 30 years old.
– Kurspahic, Hasan – Approximately 50 years old.
– Kurspahic, Hasnija – Approximately 62 years old
– Kurspahic, Hata – Approximately 68 years old.
– Kurspahic, Ifeta – Approximately 17 years old.
– Kurspahic, Igabala – Approximately 58 years old.
– Kurspahic, Ismet – Approximately 3 years old.
– Kurspahic, Ismeta – Approximately 26 years old.
– Kurspahic, Izeta – Approximately 24 years old
– Kurspahic, Kada – Approximately 40 years old
– Kurspahic, Maida – Age is unknown,
she was a little girl.
– Kurspahic, Medina – Approximately 28 years old.
– Kurspahic, Medo – Approximately 50 years old.
– Kurspahic, Mejra – Approximately 47 years old.
– Kurspahic, Meva – Approximately 45 years old.
– Kurspahic, Mina – Approximately 20 years old.
– Kurspahic, Mirela – Approximately 3 years old.
– Kurspahic, Mujesira – Approximately 35 years old.
– Kurspahic, Munevera – Approximately 20 years old.
– Kurspahic, Munira – Approximately 12 years old.
– Kurspahic, Munira – Approximately 55 years old
– Kurspahic, Osman – Approximately 67 years old
– Kurspahic, Pasana or Pasija –
Approximately 56 years old
– Kurspahic, Ramiza – Approximately 57 years old
– Kurspahic, Sabiha – Approximately 14 years old
– Kurspahic, Sadeta – Approximately 18 years old
– Kurspahic, Safa – Approximately 50 years old
– Kurspahic, Saha – Approximately 70 years old
– Kurspahic, Sajma – Approximately 20 years old
– Kurspahic, Seila – Approximately 2 years old
– Kurspahic, Seniha – Approximately 9 years old
– Kurspahic, Sumbula – Approximately 62 years old
– Kurspahic, Vahid – Approximately 8 years old
– A boy whose name is unknown – Approximately 11
– Aljic, first name unknown, father of Suhra Aljic
– Approximately 65 years old
– Alijic, first name unknown, mother of Suhra Aljic
– Aproximately 65 years old
– Aljic, first name unknown, son of Suhra Aljic
– Approximately 1 year old
– Aljic, Suhra – Approximately 25 years old
– Jelacic, first name unknown – Age unknown
– Tufekcic, Dehva – Approximately 28 years old
– Tufekcic, Elma – Approximately 5 years old
– Tufekcic, Ensar – Approximately 1.5 years old
– Turjacanin, Dulka – Approximately 51 years old
– Turjacanin, Sada – Approximately 29 years old
– Turjacanin, Selmir – Approximately 9 years old
– Vilic, first name unknown, daughter of Mina Vilic –
– Vilic, first name unknown, son of Mina Vilic –
– Vilic, Mina – Approximately 32 years old
– Vilic, Mirzeta – Approximately 8 years old
– Ajanovic, Mula – Approximately 75 years old.
– Delija, Adis – Approximately 2 years old
– Delija, Ajnija – Approximately 50 years old
– Delija, Jasmina – Approximately 24 years old
– Family name unknown – Hasena Age unknown
– Jasarevic, Tima – Age unknown
– Jasarevic, Hajra – Approximately 35 years old.
– Jasarevic, Meho – Approximately 42 years old.
– Jasarevic, Mujo – Approximately 47 years old.
– Memisevic, Fazila – Approximately 54 years old
– Memisevic, Redzo – Approximately 57 years old
– Sadikovic, Rabija – Approximately 52 years old
– Sehic, Enver – Approximately 13 years old
– Sehic, Faruk – Approximately 12 years old
– Sehic, Haraga – Age unknown
– Sehic, Kada – Approximately 39 years old
– Velic, Nurka – Approximately 70 years old
– Velic, Tima – Approximately 35 years old
– Vila, Jasmina – Approximately 20 years old
This article appeared on Serbian portal e-novine 03-10-2013.
Bosnian Association of former Concentration Camp Prisoners and the Association of “Women Victims of War” announced that they are shocked and appalled by the events that took place last week in the eastern Bosnian town of Vlasenica. During the event called “The march of return- by road of salvation Sušica 2013” when a large poster of general Ratko Mladić was placed by the side of the road on the way out of Vlasenica. The poster read ; “General… We Are Waiting For You…Your Vlasenčani (citizens of Vlasenica)”…
Ratko Mladić is currently on trial at The Hague suspected for the crime of genocide in Srebrenica.
“We consider this to be a classic example of endorsement and glorification of war crimes and genocide, spreading of inter-ethnic hatred and intolerance as well as an attack on the victims of torture- former concentration camp prisoners, victims of sexual violence during the war. This also affects the families of those the victims and the missing and an attack on the consciousness and conscience of every normal citizen of this country” according to the statement by the associations…
The signatories’ state in their announcement that the message being sent to the victims or to those that have returned to their former homes in Republika Srpska is clear.
“ We remind everyone that Vlasenica was, as has been confirmed by verdicts against Dragan Nikolić, Predrag Bastah and Goran Višković a scene of a horrific crime carried out against the community´s non-Serb albeit mostly Bosniak population. Around 8000 people suffered through the agony of Sušica Concentration Camp, around 1600 of those have been killed or have disappeared without a trace and that hundreds of girls and women were raped. Altogether, the total number of killed and missing Bosniaks from Vlasenica is around 3000”
This is according to Association of former Concentration Camp Prisoners and the Association of “Women Victims of War” not an isolated event but an everyday occurrence in Republika Srpska. Both associations have submitted a more extensive list of information about this incident to the proper authorities and security services in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“We expect the proper authorities and security services to act promptly and efficiently and that they inform the victims, the returnees as well as the general public who is responsible for this heinous act, this open spreading of inter-ethnic hatred and intolerance, endangering the security of the returnees to Republika Srpska by violating the Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Accords. We also hope that the security services in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be able to, in a very near future if not prevent then at least adequately and efficiently prosecute those responsible for such incidents.” according to the statement.
Further information ( My note)
Dragan Nikolic :
was commander of the Serb-run Sušica Detention Camp in the municipality of Vlasenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. While in charge of the camp, he participated in creating and maintaining an atmosphere of terror and systematic sadism in the camp for the Bosnian Muslims and other non-Serb detainees. Nikolić personally killed nine people, and tortured and beat other detainees. Under his guidance women of all ages were raped or sexually assaulted..Nikolić was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
The accused Predrag Bastah and Goran Višković were found guilty because between April and late September 1992, as part of a widespread and systematic attack of parts of the JNA units, military, paramilitary and police forces of the Serb Republic of BiH directed against the civilian Bosniak and other non-Serb population of Vlasenica Municipality, with knowledge of such an attack and of the fact that their acts constituted part of the attack, as members of these forces, specifically Predrag Bastah as a member of the reserve forces of the MUP of RS, SJB Vlasenica and Goran Višković as a member of the Army of the Serb Republic of BiH, persecuted the civilian population of Bosniak and other non-Serb ethnicities on political, ethnic and religious grounds by participating in a joint plan and its contribution to the fulfillment of a common goal of depriving the lives of other persons (killings), unlawful imprisonment, psychological and sexual mistreatment, enforced disappearance, torture and other inhumane acts committed to inflict bodily and mental harm.
(Small correction, in my original post I wrote that the picture above is from the town of Foča, in fact it is from the neighbouring town of Gacko. The photographer, Jaques Cotard made the misstake of confusing Foca with neighbouring Gacko. )
After the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords which split the country into two enteties, Foča became a part of Republika Srpska. Both Vlasenica and Foča are in eastern Bosnia with 140 kilometers between the two towns. As you could read above Vlasenica was a scene of some of the worst crimes committed during the genocidal campaign carried out by radicals loyal to Radovan Karadzic in collusion with the Yugoslav Army and Serb security forces. Sadly the fate that befell Foča is no different.
On june 12th 2002 International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)upheld the guilty verdict for three Bosnian Serb soldiers; Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovač and Zoran Vuković. Previous year the Trial Chamber had found the three men guilty of :
crimes against humanity on the counts of enslavement, rape and torture as well as violations of the laws and customs of war on the counts of rape and torture. In the same decision, Radomir Kova~ was found guilty of crimes against humanity on the counts of enslavement and rape as well as violations of the laws and customs of war on the count of outrages upon personal dignity. Zoran Vukovic was found guilty of crimes against humanity on the counts of rape
The Trial chamber also concluded that:
One purpose of the campaign was, among others, to cleanse the Foča area of Muslims; to that end the campaign was successful. Even the town’s name was cleansed. Foča was renamed Srbinje ( a town for Serbs) and now lies in the territory of the Republika Srpska. There are hardly any Muslims left in Srbinje today. One target of that campaign, apart from the Muslim armed forces, were Muslim civilians. In the present case, especially Muslim women. The method employed was mostly expulsion through terror. On a general level, the terror expressed itself in the violent destruction of the religious symbols of the Muslims. All mosques in Foča were blown up and the ruins razed to the ground. Civilian Muslim men and women were rounded up in the villages surrounding Foca, and even as far as the neighbouring municipalities of Kalinovik and Gacko. The men were separated from the women and children
Rape as instrument of terror
In the trial of Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovač and Zoran Vuković the trial chamber also concluded that the Bosnian Serb Army and paramilitary units used rape as an intrument of terror according to the Trial Chamber´s verdict, Serb forces set up and maintained detention centers for Muslim ( Bosniak) women in the town of Foca. Such as Partizan Sports Hall which lies right next to the municipal police building in Foca, from the Sports Hall, women and girls were taken away to other locations to be raped, this was done according to the Trial Chamber on a regular basis. The Trial Chamber further stated that those meant to protect the women, meaning the local authorities not only turned a blind eye to the suffering of the women in Foca, but that they helped guard the women and even joined in on the abuse of the women when they would ask the local police help them.
The trial chamber goes on to say; that according to the evidence;
Muslim (Bosniak) women and girls, mothers and daughters together, robbed of the last vestiges of human dignity, women and girls treated like chattels, pieces of property at the arbitrary disposal of the Serb occupation forces, and more specifically, at the beck and call of the three accused.
In October 2011 PBS aired it´s Women, War, and Peace series, a five-part series about the struggle women face in conflict areas. The first installment of those series was called; I Came to Testify. A documentary about the women of Foča. The same women that had been subjected to various forms of physical abuse and rape by Bosnian Serb military forces. Narrated by Matt Damon, I Came to Testify tells the story of 16 Bosniak women that came to testify against their former captors, and changed the face the justice forever. Among those who they testified against were Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovač and Zoran Vuković.