VICTIM FROM FOCA: ‘THEY TOOK AWAY MY HAPPINESS’
In her evidence at the trial of Ratko Mladic, a Bosniak woman from Foca testified as a protected witness. She recounted how she was detained several months in a series of prison facilities in 1992. She and many other women were raped, tortured and humiliated in many other ways
Witness RM 70 testified today with full protective measures to conceal her identity. She described her ordeal during her detention at the hands of the Serb army and police in the war in BH. The statement the witness gave to the prosecution in 1995 and parts of her evidence at one of the previous trials in The Hague were admitted into evidence in the beginning of the hearing. Prosecutor Marcus read out the summary of her statement.
According to the summary, the Serb army arrested the witness and about 30 other Bosnian Muslims in Foca in early July 1992. Ten detainees were killed soon afterwards while the others were taken to the prison facility in the Buk Bijela motel. There they were abused sexually and in other ways. The women and girls were moved to the high school in Foca where they were raped and tortured on a daily basis. The same pattern of violence continued when the female prisoners were moved to the Partisan sports hall. Finally, the witness ended up in the notorious Karaman’s house in Foca where she was held from early August to the end of October 1992. During that period, the witness and other female detainees were gang raped and subjected to other forms of torture. Finally, two Serb soldiers helped her to flee to Montenegro. All the prison facilities where the witness was held are listed in the indictment against Mladic.
Most of her evidence, particularly the parts when she talked about the crimes she had survived, was heard in closed session. While the court was in open session, the witness identified the Bosnian Serb army soldiers and police officers Pero Elez, Gojko Jankovic, Dragan Zelenovic and Janko Janjic as some of the rapists. On one occasion, a local school teacher, Milorad Cicmil, threatened the witness, saying he would cut off her arm because she didn’t know how to make the sign of cross when she was ordered to do so.
In her testimony, the witness said that 12-year old Almira Bektovic was detained with her in Karaman’s house. Asked what happened with Almira Bektovic later, the witness replied that she never saw Almira after they parted. She heard that Almira was sold to a man from Montenegro for 200 German Marks.
The witness was then asked why the women and girls from Foca had been sexually abused and maltreated. ‘They wanted to kill us and destroy us spiritually, for there is no cure for a woman who has been raped, I can never wash it away, never. I’ve been fighting it, but my life has been destroyed, they killed my mother and brother, the persons I loved most in my life, they took away my happiness. Before the war, I was so very happy, so happy that no words can describe it’, the witness RM 70 said in a rush, in tears.
The witness said she didn’t hate Serbs despite all that they had done to her. There are good Serb people, who unfortunately ‘couldn’t do anything’ to protect their Bosniak neighbors, the witness said. In a brief cross-examination, the witness confirmed that two Serb soldiers saved her from captivity and that she would be forever grateful to them.
The witness has not returned to where she had lived before the war. Only one Bosniak man lives in her village, the witness said, adding that her former Serb neighbors battle severe poverty. ‘Today our Serb neighbors would be happy to see us back, to have us live together with them once again. They say their good luck was gone when we left. They have nothing; they are poor, very poor. I feel sorry for them when I see them like that’, the witness said, concluding her evidence.
- Case : Mladic
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