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

Jelisic Trial: A Woman's Account Of The Horrors At Camp Luka

Tribunal Update 142: Last Week in The Hague (September 6-12, 1999)
By IWPR

They concluded that Jelisic did not suffer from any mental illnesses, but that he has pronounced "deep personality disorders, with anti-social and narcissistic tendencies." Despite this, they found him fit to stand trial.


Last week the court heard how this psychological state manifested itself in May 1992 in Luka camp in Brcko. Jelisic, prosecution witnesses pointed out, saw and presented himself as "a man with a mission". That mission, as he stressed in front of his victims and witnesses, was to "cleanse the Muslims and to create a clean territory for the Serbian people."


Those Muslims who "accidentally survived... could only be slaves." He also said, that in the morning, before "his first coffee," he had to kill 20-30 Muslims." He would present himself as the 'Serbian Adolf'' or 'Adolf No.2', and say that his 'German model' was 'Adolf No. 1'."


There is no doubt that Jelisic was "fulfilling" his mission by killing Muslims and Croats detained in the Luka camp in Brcko in May 1992. Jelisic himself admitted before the judges, the 12 killings cited in the indictment, and has admitted many more in interviews with the investigators.


Prosecutor Terree Bowers said at the beginning of the trial that the exact number of his victims will probably never be known, "but if we are to believe even a small percentage of the totals Jelisic himself claimed... then his victims certainly number well over a hundred."


According to the prosecutor, just one killing committed with the intent to participate in the eradication of one racial, ethnic and religious group is sufficient to sustain a charge of genocide. Jelisic's statements confirm that he killed with genocidal intent, it was argued, so the prosecutor has largely focused on those statements in the course of the trial so far.


This intent was, the prosecutor claims, also confirmed by the lists for liquidation of Muslims and Croats, as seen by witnesses on Jelisic's office desk. These lists, according to the prosecutor, were given to Jelisic by the chief of the then Crisis Committee in Brcko, with an order to kill "as many as possible".


Five new witnesses - survivors of detention at the Luka camp - appeared before the court last week. The testimony by a former nurse from Brcko, the protected witness K, was most dramatic. While reconstructing the horrors that took place in the camp, she introduced a new element: rapes.


Her suffering began the first day she was brought to the camp, May 3, 1992, when she was raped by Ranko Cesic, Jelisic's co-accused in the 'Brcko indictment'. The rapes were repeated on several occasions during her one-month long detention. She was, however, never raped by Jelisic. He used to say, the witness K claims, that "Muslim women were dirty" and that he "was exterminating the men so they would not multiply any longer."


This is how K described Jelisic's behaviour: "He constantly ran around as if he were mad, he shouted horribly, behaved as if the whole world was his... In order to show us his power, he ordered that one detainee be brought and then he was beaten in front of us (other detained nurses), and we had to look at the floor. We were torn inside hearing the man plead and beg them to stop, but they beat him all until he fell on the floor, and then Jelisic ordered that he be taken out and finished off."


Jelisic's "reign of terror" lasted until May 19, 1992, when a new higher ranking officer of the JNA arrived at the camp, whom the detainees, including the witness K, told what was happening at the camp. This is how K then described Jelisic's reaction: "He was beside himself with fury, he shouted, jumped over the fence and stormed into our room asking for one minute to finish with us. He was foaming and shouted at us that we were snakes and whores, while the guards were trying to pull him away."


This statement fits with the argument of the prosecutor's opening statement that Jelisic was "so effective and notorious during his genocidal spree, that even the Bosnian Serb authorities had to rein him in".


On the first day Jelisic did not listen to the testimony of the witness K because he remained in the Detention Unit owing to stomach problems. On the second day, K insisted that the accused be brought to the courtroom, since she "had waited for seven years to look him in the eyes".


Jelisic was brought, but K did not have an opportunity to look him in the eyes. He heard the largest part of her trail without raising his eyes from the bench in front of him.


During the cross-examination, defence counsel Michael Greaves confronted the witness K with her earlier statement in which she described the accused as a man with blonde hair and blue eyes. Since Jelisic has brown hair and brown eyes, and noting that the witness was under shock and stress at the camp, Greaves began to maintain that the witness had wrongly identified Jelisic as the man responsible. Greaves insisted on this point, sometimes rather aggressively, to the point where Judge Claude Jorda had to warn him several times. But witness K was adamant that the man in the dock was the man responsible. "I am prepared to guarantee with my own life that that is true," she said.


When Judge Jorda asked her at the end of her testimony whether she had anything to add, K said that she could never have imagined that there are such people like Goran Jelisic. But she said that she "does not condemn him, since he has condemned himself by what he has done". The trial of Goran Jelisic continues.