Foca Prison Trial

Former inmates claim hundreds disappeared during bogus prisoner exchanges

Foca Prison Trial

Former inmates claim hundreds disappeared during bogus prisoner exchanges

Saturday, 3 February, 2001

Protected witness 109, a former inmate of Foca prison, told the court last week how he and his fellow detainees hoped to be selected for prisoner exchanges, only to learn later that those chosen were never seen again.


"Several groups were taken for exchanges," witness 109 said, "but many of those people have not reappeared to this day."


Former inmates estimate 400 people selected for the exchanges disappeared.


The exchanges, which officially envisaged Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) detainees being swapped for Serb prisoners, form part of the prosecution's case against the former Foca prison warden, Milorad Krnojelac.


The prosecution claims the Foca prisoners chosen for the exchanges in the latter half of 1992 were murdered and that as warden of the prison the defendant was aware of these crimes.


Former Foca inmate, Dzevad Lojo said he knew of over 20 groups of prisoners who left the jail in the second half of 1992, all of whom are now listed as missing. Lojo said he knew the men were still missing from speaking to their relatives.


In August 1992, Lojo said, a group of 71 men was taken from the prison.


Prosecutor Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff asked if he thought any of them were still alive.


"I wish they were," Lojo said. "But they aren't. They are gone!"


Several former inmates said two groups were taken to pick plums in September 1992.


"Some of us begged to be taken because we were eager to get outside and hoped we would get a better meal after the work," Lojo said.


He was not chosen. All those who went on the trip never returned. The bodies of seven who did go were found in the vicinity of Foca last year.


One witness claimed he had heard lists of names of those to be "exchanged" were drawn up at the Foca Serbian Crisis Committee (local administration).


Several detainees said prison guards would come out of the jail's administrative building and call out the names of detainees to be exchanged, implying Krnojelac knew and was responsible for the implementation of these orders.


But Krnojelac's defence team argue it is first necessary to establish whether the exchange prisoners were dead and, if so, the time and cause of death.


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