COURTSIDE: Foca Prison Trial

Prosecution insists Krnojelac was a 'careless' warden

COURTSIDE: Foca Prison Trial

Prosecution insists Krnojelac was a 'careless' warden

Saturday, 30 June, 2001

Milorad Krnojelac, the former warden of the Foca prison, told the court last week that he had never heard of crimes being committed in the jail. Krnojelac was also at pains to stress that as warden he held no responsibility for the detainees, who were, he said, under the army's control.


"I swear on the lives of all the members of my family that I never heard cries or screams, nor about beatings and killings," said Krnojelac, a former teacher in Foca who was appointed prison warden in 1992 after the Serb take-over of the town.


"If I had seen any abuse I would have prevented it," he said.


The prosecution claims hundreds of Bosniaks were detained in Foca prison some for as long as two years. Former detainees have told the court that during 1992, numerous killings took place within the prison, alleged prisoner exchanges and work details.


Prosecutors claim Krnojelac was responsible for the deportation of detainees. Although they admit there is no evidence the former warden knew the selected inmates were destined to die, they argue that he was nevertheless careless in his duties as warden.


After the recent discovery of a mass grave near Foca containing the bodies of 61 victims, including at least six prison inmates, prosecutors asked permission to reopen their case to introduce new evidence gleaned from the site.


The judges rejected the request on the grounds that the new evidence did not carry enough weight to justify re-opening the case, as it was not proven Krnojelac knew the detainees would be killed outside the prison.


The former warden claimed the detainees quarters were entirely under the control of the army and that he was not in a position to oppose their actions. Krnojelac said he personally had not supported the detention of Bosniaks and had only accepted the position of warden after being reassured that he would have no responsibility for the prisoners.


Krnojelac said he focused on repairing the prison's shattered economy.


Prosecutor Peggy Kuo suggested Krnojelac wanted the prisoners to be released "because you knew they were innocent". The accused replied that he had no way of knowing who was innocent as they had not appeared before a court.


"But you knew there were no judicial proceedings," said the prosecutor. Krnojelac responded that this was he did not want to be in charge of the detainees quarters. " I did not want to be accused of anything," he said.


The prosecution took this comment as confirmation Krnojelac was well aware of the crimes being committed, despite his denials.


Cross-examination continues this week.


Vjera Bogati is an IWPR special correspondent at The Hague and a journalist with SENSE News Agency.


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