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

Courtside: Radovan Stankovic Case

By Vjera Bogati in The Hague (TU No. 288, 4 - 8 November, 2002)
By IWPR

Radovan "Rasa" Stankovic is accused of operating one of many brothels in this eastern Bosnian town in which the women were forced to have sex, but he arrived at The Hague too late to be included in a previous trial of three Bosnian Serb soldiers.


These men - Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovac and Zoran Vukovic - have already been found guilty of offences of rape and sexual enslavement. They were jailed last year for 28, 20 and 12 years respectively. The Hague appeals chamber upheld the convictions and sentences in June this year.


Stankovic, 33, a former member of a Bosnian Serb paramilitary unit, appeared in court for a preliminary hearing last week. He was transferred to The Hague on July 9 after being arrested near Foca by NATO commandos.


Stankovic refused to enter a plea in the July hearing, claiming that he had been accused "solely because he was a Serb". According to procedure, the judge entered a not-guilty plea.


Along with Stankovic and the three accused mentioned above, four more Serbs were originally charged in 1996 with the rape and sexual enslavement.


Dragan Gagovic and Janko Janjic killed themselves to avoid arrest while two more - Gojko Jankovic and Dragan Zelenovic - are still at large.


The indictment, amended in 1999, accuses Stankovic of being "in charge of Karaman's house in Miljevina, where Muslim women were detained and sexually assaulted, including rapes". He is also accused of participating in these attacks.


Prosecutors claim that after Foca fell into Bosnisn Serb hands, many of the detained Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) women and girls were subjected to humiliating and degrading conditions .


They were allegedly beaten, raped and sexually assaulted. The charges say the women were detained at different places, including a motel, school, as well as houses and apartments used as brothels operated by groups of soldiers, mostly paramilitaries.


Stankovic was charged, on the basis of his individual criminal responsibility, with two counts of violations of the laws or customs of war (rape; outrages upon personal dignity), and two counts of crimes against humanity (enslavement; rape).


His trial could be among the shortest in the tribunal's history.


At the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor said he will call between 12 and 18 witnesses. Consequently, the whole trial could take between six and eight weeks.


The hearing could begin in the spring 2003 if judges admit evidence from the previous Foca rape trial.


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