bosnia report
New Series No: 21/22 January - May 2001
Judgement of Trial Chamber II in the Kunarac, Kovac and Vukovic case

Judgement of Trial Chamber II in the Kunarac, Kovac and Vukovic Case

Dragoljub Kunarac Sentenced to 28 Years

Radomir Kovac Sentenced to 20 Years

Zoran Vukovic Sentenced to 12 Years


* First convictions by the ICTY of rape as a crime against humanity

* Trial Chamber II found that rape was  used by members of the Bosnian Serb armed forces as an instrument of terror

* First convictions of enslavement as a crime against humanity

* Trial Chamber also states that  lawless opportunists should expect no mercy, no matter how low their position in the chain of command may be

Full text of the summary of the Judgement of Trial Chamber II,

read out by presiding Judge Florence Mumba


' Today the Trial Chamber delivers its Judgement in the proceedings against the accused.

The full text will be distributed to the parties. I shall read out only a summary and the disposition.

The three accused, who are ethnic Serbs, have been charged by the Prosecution with violations of the laws or customs of war and with crimes against humanity  rape, torture, enslavement and outrages upon personal dignity.

They participated in a Serb campaign in the wider area of the municipality of Foca from early 1992 up to about mid-1993. The campaign was part of an armed conflict between the Serb and Muslim forces in the wider region of Foca, which existed at all times material to the indictments against the accused.

One purpose of the campaign was, among others, to cleanse the Foca area of Muslims; to that end the campaign was successful. Even the town s name was cleansed.

Foca was renamed Srbinje and now lies in the territory of the Republika Srpska. There are hardly any Muslims left in Srbinje today.

One target of that campaign, apart from the Muslim armed forces, were Muslim civilians. In the present case, especially Muslim women.

The method employed was mostly expulsion through terror.

On a general level, the terror expressed itself in the violent destruction of the religious symbols of the Muslims. All mosques in Foca were blown up and the ruins razed to the ground.

Civilian Muslim men and women were rounded up in the villages surrounding Foca, and even as far as the neighbouring municipalities of Kalinovik and Gacko. The men were separated from the women and children.

The men often had to suffer long periods of detention in the Foca KP Dom prison. Detention without justification. Some were severely mistreated when they were captured. Some were killed on the spot, often in the presence or within earshot of their families.

The women and children from the Foca region were taken to collection points, such as Buk Bijela, a settlement south of Foca. From there, they were transferred by bus to Foca High School, where they were detained. Some of them were later taken to other places in and around Foca, such as Partizan Sports Hall, which was about a stone s throw away from the police station, and to private houses in Miljevina and Trnovace. There they would meet women and girls from the other two municipalities.

In the above-mentioned places, the terror took on another, very personal dimension.

The trial against the three accused has sometimes been called the 'rape camp case', an example of the systematic rape of women of another ethnicity being used as a  'weapon of war' .

It is to some extent misleading to say that systematic rape was employed as a 'weapon of war'. This could be understood to mean a kind of concerted approach or an order given to the Bosnian Serb armed forces to rape Muslim women as part of their combat activities in the wider meaning. There is no sufficient evidence for such a finding before the Trial Chamber.

What the evidence shows, is that the rapes were used by members of the Bosnian Serb armed forces as an instrument of terror. An instrument they were given free rein to apply whenever and against whomsoever they wished.

What the evidence shows, is that it was possible for the Serb forces to set up and maintain a detention centre for scores of Muslim women such as Partizan Sports Hall, next to the municipal police building in Foca, from which women and young girls were taken away on a regular basis to other locations to be raped.

What the evidence shows, is that the authorities who were meant to protect the victims, such as the local police which had been taken over by the Serbs, turned a blind eye to their suffering. Instead, they helped guard the women, and even joined in their maltreatment when approached by them for help against their oppressors.

What the evidence shows, are Muslim women and girls, mothers and daughters together, robbed of the last vestiges of human dignity, women and girls treated like chattels, pieces of property at the arbitrary disposal of the Serb occupation forces, and more specifically, at the beck and call of the three accused.

What the sum of the evidence manifestly demonstrates, is the effect a criminal personality will have in times of war on helpless members of the civilian population:

- The actions of the three accused were part of a systematic attack against Muslim civilians. Some of their acts, in peacetime, could doubtlessly be characterised as organised crime.

- They knew of the military conflict in the Foca region, because they participated in it as soldiers in different units.

- They knew that one of the main purposes of that campaign was to drive the Muslims out of the region.

- They knew that one way to achieve this was to terrorise the Muslim civilian population in a manner that would make it impossible for them ever to return.

- They also knew of the general pattern of crimes, especially of detaining women and girls in different locations where they would be raped. The actions of all three accused, as will be described below, show beyond any doubt their knowledge of the detention centres, and of the practice of systematically transferring the women and girls to locations where they would be abused by Serb men.

- The three accused were not just following orders, if there were such orders, to rape Muslim women. The evidence shows free will on their part. Of the women and girls so detained, one was a child of only 12 years at the time. She has not been heard of since she was sold by one of the accused. The women and girls were either lent or 'rented out' to other soldiers for the sole purpose of being ravaged and abused. Some of the women and girls were kept in servitude for months on end.

- The three accused are not ordinary soldiers, whose morals were merely loosened by the hardships of war. These are men with no known criminal past. However, they thrived in the dark atmosphere of the dehumanisation of those believed to be enemies, when one would not even ask, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, 'Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home.'

The three accused are certainly not in the category of the political or military masterminds behind the conflicts and atrocities. However, the Trial Chamber wishes to make it perfectly clear that, although in these cases before this Tribunal it is generally desirable to prosecute and try those in the higher echelons of power, the Trial Chamber will not accept low rank or a subordinate function as an escape from criminal prosecution.

Political leaders and war generals are powerless if the ordinary people refuse to carry out criminal activities in the course of war. Lawless opportunists should expect no mercy, no matter how low their position in the chain of command may be.

Indeed, it is opportune to state that, in time of peace as much as in time of war, men of substance do not abuse women.'


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