Witness Describes "Brutal" Beatings

Former prisoner tells court he saw accused Zupljanin visit camp run by Bosnian Serb police.

Witness Describes "Brutal" Beatings

Former prisoner tells court he saw accused Zupljanin visit camp run by Bosnian Serb police.

Saturday, 10 October, 2009

A prosecution witness testifying in the trial of Stojan Zupljanin and Mico Stanisic spoke this week of the “torment” he and fellow inmates suffered while being detained by Bosnian Serb military police.

Enis Sabanovic, a Bosniak Muslim doctor from Sanski Most municipality, said that he was captured in 1991 by Bosnian Serbs and held prisoner in various locations, including the Manjaca camp located close to the north-western Bosnian city of Banja Luka.

Sabanovic was appearing as a witness in the trial of Zupljanin, the former head of the Regional Security Services Centre in Banja Luka, and Stanisic, who was appointed minister in charge of the newly-founded Bosnian Serb ministry of internal affairs in April 1992.

Zupljanin, who became an adviser to the Bosnian Serb president and Hague indictee Radovan Karadzic in 1994, is accused of the extermination, murder, persecution, and deportation of non-Serbs in north-western Bosnia between April and December, 1992.

Stanisic is charged with murder, torture and cruel treatment of non-Serb civilians, as well as for his failure to prevent or punish crimes committed by his subordinates.

Stanisic and Zupljanin are alleged to have participated in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at the permanent removal of non-Serbs from the territory of an intended Serbian state. They are accused of crimes committed between April 1 and December 31, 1992, in municipalities throughout Bosnia and Hercegovina, including Sanski Most.

They are also charged with responsibility for the unlawful detention of civilians in camps in Bosnia as well as for “the establishment and perpetuation of inhumane living conditions in these camps”, the indictment says.

Both defendants – whose indictments were joined together in September 2008 – have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Sabanovic had previously testified in the trial of Radoslav Brdjanin, the former head of the Banja Luka Crisis Staff of the Autonomous Region of Krajina. In April 2007, Brdjanin was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment on appeal at the Hague tribunal for crimes committed against non-Serbs in Krajina.

In his testimony this week, the witness told judges that he was arrested on May 25, 1992, and spent the first two days of his imprisonment locked in the toilet of the Sanski Most public security police station.

The Bosnian Serbs who arrested him were wearing the blue and camouflage uniforms of the Centre of Security Services of the Former Yugoslavia, he said.

“Afterwards, I was transferred to a garage which belonged to a company called Betonirka, some 150 metres from the police station in Sanski Most, where I was imprisoned. I spent the next three days there. During my transfer, I was brutally beaten up by the Bosnian Serb military police,” the witness said.

Sabanovic said that in the Betonirka location, he was put in a room with 50 other people.

“The conditions were terrible – we were packed in like sardines. We had to stand constantly, as there was nowhere to lie down at all,” he said.

According to the indictment against Stanisic and Zupljanin, at Betonirka factory garage, between June and July 1992, “numerous detainees were forced into 3 x 5 metre cells with no ventilation, no toilet facilities, no beds, no running water and with insufficient room to sleep.

“Detainees were forced to eat tainted food causing severe abdominal pain and dehydration. Detainees were forced to line up and beat other detainees severely. Some detainees were forced to assume a praying position and were beaten severely with wooden chair legs.”

The witness said that while he was detained at Betonirka, Bosnian Serb military police guards would take prisoners outside each night, in order to torment and beat them.

The witness said that his captors then transferred him to a local school.

“Before my transfer to the final destination, which was the Manjaca camp, I spent some days in the gym of the Hasan Kikic school in Sanski Most. This is where the torment continued. The guards did whatever they wanted to the prisoners,” he said.

The indictment against Stanisic and Zupljanin states that between May and the end of December 1992, detainees at Manjaca camp “were subjected to regular beatings in areas throughout the camp, including outside the make-shift medical clinic, stables and other buildings.

“Beatings were inflicted by fists, feet, batons, wooden poles, rifle butts and electric cables. In some cases, the beatings were so severe as to result in permanent serious injury and deaths.”

Zupljanin visited the Manjaca camp on two occasions during his period of detention, Sabanovic said.

He said that the first time Zupljanin visited the camp in June 1992, he saw the accused there with Brdjanin and Vojislav Kupresanin, a former high-ranking official of the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS. Sabanovic added that Zupljanin had then visited Manjaca again some weeks later.

Defence attorney Dragan Krgovic then asked Sabanovic if he remembered the testimony he had given in June 2000, when he appeared as a witness in Brdjanin’s trial. Krgovic noted that in this testimony, the witness had mentioned only one visit of Zupljanin to Manjaca, not two, and asked if that testimony had been correct.

“What I said then was correct,” Sabanovic said.

He went on to explain that he had not mentioned the second visit at that time, because he had only heard about it from other prisoners and had not actually seen Zupljanin on that occasion.

“I didn’t see it with my own eyes, but the prisoners were speaking about it,” he said.

The witness then went on to describe Zupljanin’s first visit to the camp.

“I know that I saw Zupljanin leaving the first stable and going towards the second, which is where the prisoners were housed. In the stable, he gave a speech,” he said.

The witness said that in this speech, Zupljanin told the detainees that those among them who had not committed any crimes would be released, at which point the prisoners applauded.

The trial continues next week.

Velma Saric is an IWPR-trained journalist in Sarajevo.

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