Foca Prison Trial

Inmates speak of appalling jail conditions

Foca Prison Trial

Inmates speak of appalling jail conditions

Saturday, 17 February, 2001

The tribunal court considering the case against former camp warden Milorad Krnojelac heard testimony from former inmates of Foca prison on the inhumane conditions in the camp.

Over one thousand Bosniaks and other non-Serbs from the Foca area passed through the jail between 1992 and 1993.

"The food (that the inmates got) was horrible...If I had stayed longer in the prison, I doubt that I would remain alive," said one witness who was detained for only a short period of time.

There was no heating during the winter months and inmates had to be resourceful to stay warm. Witness 71 said that they made mittens and socks out of blankets. The witness, who also made a heater to warm water, was put in solitary confinement on at least two occasions.

"The solitary cell was in the cellar... we lay on the concrete floor and had only one blanket at minus 18 degrees," the witness said. "I got pneumonia three times due to a lack of food and medicines and the cold."

The witness said a doctor came to the prison, but the medicines he gave the detainees could not cure them. Some seriously ill patients were brought to the prison straight from Foca hospital and detained in the same conditions.

One of them, witness 146, described last week how he was in Foca hospital for asthma and asphyxiation on the eve of the conflict in the area in April 1992.

He was "privileged"- one of only three Bosniaks treated in the hospital after the Serbian takeover in the town. However, the three left the hospital when a local paramilitary commander Pero Elez showed up in October 1992, beat them up and threatened to kill the Serbian doctor for treating Muslims.

"Then he beat up the three of us in the hospital, blood was everywhere, two of my teeth were knocked out and four ribs broken," witness 146 said.

The detainees, the prosecution said, sent messages to Krnojelac, asking for the sick to be released or provided with better care. They said conditions did not improve until Krnojelac left in the middle of 1993.

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