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Foca Rape Trial Ends

Prosecutors say defendants should be sentenced to lengthy prison terms

Judges are considering their verdict in the eight-month Foca trial which ended last week.

The prosecution is demanding defendants Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovac and Zoran Vukovic - charged with the sexual abuse of Bosniak women and girls detained in and around Foca in 1992 - be sentenced to prison terms of between 15 and 35 years if convicted.

Prosecutors are calling for Kunarac, a military commander in Foca at the time, to receive the longest of their proposed sentences. They claimed he not only personally committed rapes, but procured women for soldiers under his command.

Kovac, accused of holding several girls, one just 12-years-old, as 'sexual slaves' and of selling some of the detainees on to others, should be sentenced to at least 30 years imprisonment, whileVukovic, accused of raping two teenage girls, should be jailed for 15 years, prosecutors said.

The defence, meanwhile, insisted Kunarac be imprisoned for no more than five years and called for the other two defendants to be released because of what they claimed were unreliable witness statements.

The defence also contested the context within which the prosecution has attempted to place the alleged offences.

Prosecutors are seeking to have the accused convicted of violations of the laws and customs of war and of crimes against humanity.

The prosecution argued there was in Foca a connection between the armed conflict and the rapes, that the victims were held in detention as a result of the conflict.

The crimes constitute a violation of the laws and customs of war, the prosecution insisted, because it has been established the victims were civilians and the perpetrators soldiers.

The defence asserted detention centres as defined by the prosecution did not exist in Foca. The school and sports hall, where many prosecution witnesses claim they were kept prisoner and subjected to repeated rapes, were, according to the defence, places where "refugees were temporarily situated".

The defence said the prosecution had failed to prove the alleged rapes were linked to the armed conflict.

To back up their claim that the accused had committed crimes against humanity, as outlined in Article 5 of the tribunal statute, the prosecution argued a complete ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and their culture had been perpetrated in Foca.

The alleged rapes, the prosecution went on, formed part of a systematic and widespread attack on the civilian population. Kunarac, Kovac and Vukovic, prosecutors said, were aware of that wider context.

The defence, however, disputed the prosecution's definition of the conflict in Foca and claims that in April 1992 Serb forces gained control over the town after "the outbreak of a spontaneous conflict".

Defence lawyers also challenged the existence of "prisons, bordellos and paramilitary formations" in the town and claims "such accusations are based on hear-say."

Once the prosecution and defence had concluded the closing arguments presiding judge Florence Mumba declared the trial closed and said the verdicts would be announced in due course.

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