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

COURTSIDE: Foca Prison Trial - A Tale of Two Brothers

Former inmates say the Krnojelac brothers rowed over the treatment of prisoners, but Arsenije denies any harsh words against his kin.

Arsenije Krnojelac, brother of Milorad Krnojelac, the former warden of Foca prison accused of crimes against humanity, denied last week that he had called his brother an "asshole" who would one day be brought to book for the brutality at the prison.

Arsenije, a driver at the prison, was a decent and helpful man, according to former inmates. They say he was an exception to the "culture of impunity" which pervaded the Foca prison and other detention centres across Bosnia during the war. Over 1,000 Bosniaks passed through Foca prison in 1992-93.

One former detainee said the guards and other prison staff "believed they would never be held responsible for the beatings and killings committed there".

But Arsenije, according to former inmates, called his brother an "asshole" and a "shit-eater" for taking the job as warden because "he would be held responsible for that sooner or later."

Last week, however, Arsenije appeared as a defence witness and denied making these comments.

"I did not say it, and I did not even talk to the detainees, ever. I do not believe at all that it was wrong that Milorad accepted the duty [of warden] in the prison," Arsenije said.

The witness said his brother was not responsible for the detention of non-Serbs in Foca. He said Milorad was in charge of the prison economy only and had no authority over detainees.

During cross-examination, the prosecutor asked Arsenije if he believed in principle whether the person in charge of the prison was responsible for what befell inmates held there. Arsenije said they would be responsible but added that this could in no way apply to his brother because he was not in charge of the detainees.

Arsenije said he did not know who was in charge of the prison. He said he had not seen or heard of any mistreatment of inmates in Foca prison. He denied ever expressing concern about the treatment meted out by some of the guards. And, he said, the last thing he wanted to accept were compliments addressed to him by former Foca prison inmates.

The defence has around two more weeks to finish its main case. One of the last witnesses is expected to be the accused himself.

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

More IWPR's Global Voices