Foca Prison Trial

Employing the testimony of former Foca prison detainee Ekrem Zekovic, prosecutors sought last week to provide evidence of the suffering of those held at the facility and prove that former prison governor, Milorad Krnojelac, was aware of the abuse.

Foca Prison Trial

Employing the testimony of former Foca prison detainee Ekrem Zekovic, prosecutors sought last week to provide evidence of the suffering of those held at the facility and prove that former prison governor, Milorad Krnojelac, was aware of the abuse.

Wednesday, 14 February, 2001

During his stay in the prison, Zekovic worked in workshops within the prison complex and outside it. His varied duties provided the witness with ample opportunity to see and hear much of the goings-on at Foca prison.


On one occasion, Zekovic said, the more sympathetic guards warned him against agreeing to be among detainees picked out for prisoner exchanges. "They obviously knew that people who were taken went missing," Zekovic said.


The witness said he occasionally carried out repairs to the administrative building, which contained the warden's office. "The walls of the entrance hall were bloody from beatings," he said.


The witness's statement supported the prosecution's claims that Krnojelac knew how the detainees were being treated by guards at the prison even though beatings took place at night when the warden was not at the prison.


Zekovic said, however, that Krnojelac was an eye-witness to some abuses. The witness claimed the warden and his deputy entered a room where one detainee was being cruelly beaten and put a stop to the abuse because it was "the wrong person".


By mid-1993 Zekovic had been detained at Foca for over a year. The witness said he had given up any illusion of being released by that point, especially when the International Committee for the Red Cross could not guarantee they would be allowed to visit the facility again or secure anyone's release.


Zekovic said he therefore made his escape during one of his visits to a workshop outside the prison walls.


Although he knew the area around Foca well and had carefully planned his escape route, Zekovic said he got lost in fog and wandered into a Serbian village where he was arrested and returned to the prison.


Several former detainees who shared a cell with Zekovic said they were beaten and put in solitary confinement because of the escape attempt.


Zekovic said he believed he had not been killed on his return to Foca prison because he was registered with the ICRC. He said he had heard someone was protecting him.


Nevertheless the witness said one guard did beat him senseless on his return. The prosecution pointed to this as evidence Krnojelac failed to punish mistreatment even when he witnessed it.


"There were people in the prison who reasoned sensibly and were aware that they would be answerable one day for everything that was done there," Zekovic said. "However, the majority of the guards, including Krnojelac, believed that no one would ever ask questions about what was done."


Zekovic said he knew and respected the warden's brother, Arsenije Krnojelac, who worked as a driver at the prison before and during the war.


"Once Arso [Arsenije Krnojelac] said to me with much nostalgia, 'Who needs all this. There's my brother, an intellectual, a donkey, accepting a post from the SDS [the Serbian Democratic Party]. And he'll answer for all this!'" Zekovic said.


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