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Foca Prison Trial-- Former detainees tell of starvation rations

Tribunal Update 200 Last Week in The Hague (November 26 - December 2, 2000)

Former prison warden Milorad Krnojelac is charged with murder, assault and inhuman treatment of detainees under his care. According to the indictment against him, conditions at the jail were characterised by "inhuman treatment, over crowding, starvation and constant physical and psychological assault."

Prosecutors claim the prison was used to illegally detain Bosnian Muslim civilians following the capture of Foca by Bosnian Serb forces in April 1992. They allege the inhumane conditions were part of a deliberate policy aimed at humiliating and disabling the inmates.

Protected witness 162 described the starvation rations provided during Krnojelac's term as prison warden.

"In the morning we got some tea and one piece of bread and during the day a small portion of soup with a piece of bread," witness 162 said. "All of us lost weight. I lost 26 kilos in two months."

Another witness said his eyesight deteriorated because of the poor diet.

Krnojelac's defence lawyers pointed out, however, all of Foca was subject to hardship during that period and that Serbs and non-Serbs alike lacked enough food to eat. They argue their client cannot be held responsible for such a situation.

The inadequate diet added to the detainees' inability to cope with the severe cold during the winter. Their cells were not heated.

A Foca doctor, identified only as witness 111, said prisoners' arms and legs were swollen from the cold.

The inmates also suffered from lice. "There were human lice, but also poultry lice which a detainee taken to work to the chicken coop had brought back," the doctor said.

Although the detainees were clearly provided with some medical care, witness 111 said some still died from inadequate treatment and psychological problems.

The doctor said detainees died from internal bleeding or because they could not keep down the rations they were fed. Another man, he said, committed suicide while in solitary confinement after being arrested and beaten up with his daughter.

Prosecutors allege Krnojelac, by allowing the detainees to exist in such conditions, is guilty of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war.