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Courtside: Foca Rape Case

Guilty trio’s appeal is thrown out.
By Mirna Jancic

The appeals chamber has rejected a petition by three Bosnian Serbs found guilty of crimes against humanity in Foca.


Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovac and Zoran Vukovic's original sentence will stand, with the men serving 28, 20 and 12 years respectively for raping Muslim women and girls in improvised detention centres in the south-east Bosnian town in 1992.


The February sentence was unprecedented as it was the first time the accused were tried exclusively for sexual offences, which were treated as crimes against humanity.


The trio sexually abused their victims almost nightly and placed some at soldiers' disposal from April 1992 until February 1993.


The chamber backed the ruling that Kovac, Kunarac and Vukovic consciously perpetrated these acts as part of the campaign to cleanse the area of non-Serbs.


In the original ruling, Judge Florence Mumba had said Kunarac's behaviour demanded a "severe penalty" as he not only systematically raped women but procured them for other soldiers.


Although the appeals chamber said the fact that he was a father of three small children should be taken into consideration, the magnitude of his crimes still justified a severe sentence.


The trial chamber had described Kovac's crimes as "particularly appalling and deplorable", as his offences included sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl before selling her on to another soldier.


Vukovic was convicted of only one rape - that of a girl aged 15. Judge Mumba had recalled that he told his teenage victim that she should have been "grateful" as he could have treated her far worse.


The trio tried unsuccessfully to deny any connection between their behaviour and the conflict raging across the former Yugoslavia. They also refuted claims that an armed attack took place on Foca's non-Serb inhabitants, saying that no force had been involved.


They also argued that the women's experiences could not be legally classed as enslavement, as they were not subjected to prolonged detention for specifically sexual purposes.


The appeals chamber ruled their actions constituted enslavement regardless of the length of detention.


It also decided that the armed conflict "played a substantial part in the perpetrator's ability to commit the crime".


Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor.


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