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From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Thu May 04 2000 - 10:14:59 EDT

By Ian Black, The Hague.
A trial at the Hague and a new report show that women were abused as a
method of war across Yugoslavia hears how soldiers brutalised girls as
young as 12 during the Bosnian war

The international war crimes tribunal at the Hague heard yesterday that
`unimaginable horrors' including gang rape, torture and sexual enslavement
were perpetrated against Muslim women and girls by Serb troops in the early
days of the Bosnian conflict.
Opening a landmark case against three former Bosnian Serb soldiers, UN
prosecutors charged that they were the men whose individual brutality in
their home town had made possible the wider project of ethnic cleansing.
Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovac and Zoran Vukovic are accused on 33 counts
of crimes against humanity and crimes against the laws and customs of war.
`'This is a case about the women and girls - some as young as 12 or 15
years old - who endured unimaginable horrors as their worlds collapsed
around them,' prosecutor Dirk Ryneveld said in his opening statement.
Mr Kunarac, 39, is further accused of `command responsibility" for crimes
committed by his subordinates. The three, who face life imprisonment, deny
all charges.
It is the first case in which sexual crimes alone have come before the war
crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
In Bosnia's war, the accused were not `particularly major players', Mr
Ryneveld, a Canadian, told the panel of three judges.
`But make no mistake: there would have been no ethnic cleansing if there
were not individuals willing to turn on their neighbours, to unleash terror
and hatred and to leave scarred victims.
`Unlike the policymakers who dealt in theories and plans, these were the
individuals who rounded up innocent women and girls, then raped them or
sexually assaulted them, tortured them, enslaved them and then ...
exchanged, sold or transferred them to other soldiers.'
As the case began, an adjacent court continued hearing evidence against the
Bosnian Serb General, Radislav Kirstic, accused of genocide in the 1995
Srebrenica massacre - the most senior officer to face the tribunal.
Mr Kunarac, Mr Kovac and Mr Vukovic were at the other end of the Serb chain
of command when war came to the Muslim majority town of Foca, in the Drina
valley close to the border with Montenegro.
Videos showed Foca as it was before spring 1992, a sleepy town of
red-roofed buildings including the Partizan sports Hall, the high school
and the Hotel Zelengora - all later used for rapes.
`This is not just a rape case like those in national jurisdictions," Mr
Ryneveld said. `'These crimes were committed during an armed conflict and
were widespread and systematic. What happened to the Muslim women of Foca
occurred purely because of their ethnicity or religion, and because they
were women."
Mr Kunarac had his headquarters in a `rape house' to which he transported
captive women, the prosecutor said.
Several women scheduled to appear as witnesses were warned that they and/or
their children would be killed if they resisted sexual assault.
Mr Vukovic, 44, a waiter and driver before the war, repeatedly led gang
rapes. Witness 48 was told she would have her throat slashed if she
resisted. Mr Vukovic `'bit her nipples until they bled and pinched her
breasts until she fainted from pain'.
Four of the 72 women held in the Partizan sports hall were raped almost
nightly for a month. Witness 186 was raped for six months.
Another victim, described as AB, was just 12 when she was sold by Mr Kovac,
38, to a soldier for 200 Deutschmarks ( #66). She is still missing.
Witness 50 was raped on the night of August 2, 1992 - the night the town's
mosque was destroyed - after being taken away by Mr Kunarac. She was raped
by a Montenegrin soldier who threatened to cut off her arms and legs and
take her to a church to baptise her.
`'Women and children, some as young as 12 years old, were detained and
raped, vaginally, anally and orally; subjected to gang rapes, forced to
dance nude with weapons pointed at them, and even enslaved,' the court
`Unlike many domestic rapes, the offences in this case were often done in
the full view of others or in a room were several women were being raped
simultaneously," the prosecutor said. `It will be difficult to fathom the
depths of despair and the horror that these victims went through."
Up to 10 rape victims are expected to testify at the trial from behind
screens or with voice scrambled to protect their identities.
GUARDIAN 21/03/2000 P13

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