Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Foca Trial: Soldiers Required 'Rape Permits'

Tribunal Update 173 Last Week in The Hague (24-29 April, 2000)

Two witnesses who were victims of sexual violence in 1992 testified that the rapists required permission from higher authorities before committing the offences.

Protected witness 95 was raped over 150 times during her detention in the secondary school and and the Partizan Sports Hall in Foca during the summer of 1992.

"On one occasion, one guard tried to stop the soldiers [from taking women away to rape], but the soldiers said they had been given certificates from the police chief," witness 95 said. She had overheard a loud argument between the guard and the soldiers at the door to the Partizan building. The witness said the certificates stated the soldiers needed sex to improve their morale on the battlefield.

The Foca police chief at the time was Dragan Gagovic, killed trying to evade arrest by German and French SFOR troops in 1999. Gagovic was also indicted for sexual crimes in Foca. (See Tribunal Update No. 107).

Witness 95 said two out of the three accused - Kunarac and Vukovic - were among the soldiers who raped her. Their defence counsels disputed the credibility of these accusations during cross examination, pointing out that the witness had never named the accused in earlier statements.

"I may not have remembered their names," witness 95 replied. "But I remember the faces of all those who raped me." She admitted that testifying to the abuse was uncomfortable but added, "there is something more important. I am proud to be here and that the world will learn what they did."

A second witness said soldiers "could not take women without permission." This witness was captured when she was 15-years-old and held for several months at the so-called Karaman's House. Women were regularly raped at the house or taken to other soldiers elsewhere in the town.

"We were helpless and hopeless, surrounded by soldiers with arms," the witness said. "We were exposed to rapes and humiliations...Some wounds have remained, but I have kept my dignity and pride."

Numerous witnesses have testified to the same pattern of events. Following military attacks on Muslim villages around Foca in early July 1992, some men were killed on the spot, while others were taken to local prison facilities. Some women and children were deported, while others were taken to collection or detention centres.

One witness described how Serbian soldiers killed her husband and two sons after the attack on her village. She was then taken along with other women to the detention centre in Buk Bijela. The same day soldiers systematically raped nearly all the younger women. Six rape victims have also testified to these events at Buk Bijela.

More IWPR's Global Voices