Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

COURTSIDE: Foca Prison Trial: Evidence Completed

The prosecution rejects defence claims that Krnojelac had no say whatsoever in matters concerning detainees.
By

After 76 working days, 45 prosecution and 31 defence witnesses, presentation of evidence in the case against Milorad Krnojelac, former warden of Foca prison, was completed last week.


During the trial, which began in October 2000, prosecutors focused on the unlawful confinement of non-Serb, mostly Bosniak civilians, in the prison following the Serb take-over of the town in April 1992.


Former detainees testified to beatings, killings, torture and deportations of fellow inmates. More than 260 inmates deported from the prison are still missing, presumed dead.


Krnojelac "was responsible for running the KP dom [Foca prison] as a detention camp and exercised powers and duties consistent with his superior position," the prosecution claim. Former inmates claimed he supervised the prison staff, communicated with the military and political authorities in the town and was present on several occasions when detainees were beaten on arrival at the jail.


The defence asserted that Krnojelac was unaware of crimes committed in the prison; that he exercised no authority over the guards or held any responsibility for the inmates. Several former guards and Krnojelac's relatives appeared in his defence.


Defence witnesses, including Krnojelac himself, claimed the prison hierarchy changed following the outbreak of war and the army took over control of areas of the prison used to hold non-Serb inmates.


Prosecutors do not dispute that the military played an important role in the detention and release of inmates. But it rejects Krnojelac's claim that he had no say whatsoever in matters concerning detainees. The prosecution claims that the warden was in charge of the prison guards, including those who abused the inmates.


Prosecutors presented a number of written documents to reinforce their case that the warden did make decision concerning detainees. He received detainees' representations and passed their demands onto the Foca Crisis Staff, the prosecutor claimed.


Prosecutors also stressed Krnojelac issued orders concerning the transport of detainees to the prison and in relation to preventing escape attempts.


Closing arguments are scheduled for July 19, 2001.


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