Jezik / Language:
31 March 2014

Beatings and Terrible Conditions at the “Viktor Bubanj” Military Barracks

Selma Učanbarlić BIRN BiH Sarajevo

By interrogating more than 40 witnesses and by presenting more than 200 pieces of material evidence over the last two years, the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina argued that Ramiz Avdovic and Iliuan-Nicolae Vintila committed crimes against Serb civilians in Sarajevo.

Under the indictment of the State Prosecution, Avdovic and Vintila, as members of the joint criminal enterprise, are indicted with having participated in the establishment and maintenance of a system for abuse of Serb civilians.

According to the Prosecution, civilians were unlawfully detained on the fifth floor of the District Prison and the military prison in the former “Viktor Bubanj” military barracks. The indictment alleges that physical and emotional pain was inflicted to the detainees who were in the “Viktor Bubanj” barracks, and that they were tortured and taken to forced labour.

Avdovic is indicted for having been Commander of Guards in these facilities, while Vintila was a cook and guard in the former military barracks.

Together with Avdovic and Vintila, Besim Muderizovic was charged as Deputy Manager on the fifth floor of the District Prison and Commander of the military prison in the “Viktor Bubanj” barracks. He died eight months after the trial started.

The trial began on March 22, 2012, and during the presentation of evidence, the Prosecution interrogated 47 witnesses and two expert witnesses, and included over 240 pieces of material evidence.

Beating Up Upon Arrival at the Military Barracks

During the trial, the Prosecution claimed that civilians were detained but that they were not told the reason for detention. They were also taken into custody without criminal proceedings being taken against them. Several witnesses said that they were taken out from their homes in the area of Sarajevo and were detained in other facilities from which they were moved to the Central Prison or “Viktor Bubanj” barracks.

Protected witness A said that he was taken to the Central Prison on July 13, 1992. After two or three days, he was transferred from there to the former military barracks.

“When they took us into the hall of the barracks, one police officer began to shout: ‘Chetniks gang, against the wall, hands up!’ He said to us to stand astride and then he went from one to another and kicked us in the genitals. I lost consciousness from the kick,” said A.

Nikola Jeremic and Jovo Elez, who are brought in the barracks in the middle of 1992, spoke about beating after they were taken into the facility.

“There was a military cordon, and as we got out of the van, they would hit someone. When we entered ‘Viktor Bubanj’ barracks, we were ordered to spread our legs and go up against the wall, and we were kicked,” said Elez.

According to witnesses, upon arrival at the military barracks, they are accommodated in small and inadequate cells. Milorad Janjic said that he and 12 other prisoners were placed in a single cell.

“We had four mattresses, we did not have enough blankets, but we did not need them because there were many of us there. The cell was windowless, and 13 persons could not lie on their backs in it,” said Janjic.

Terrible Conditions in “Viktor Bubanj“ Barracks

Former detainees described the conditions of stay in "“Viktor Bubanj“ military barracks as appalling. Radivoje Skobo said that during his stay in this facility he only once took a bath, and that food which was given to detainees was bad. This is confirmed by the protected witness B, who worked in kitchen during her detention, saying that the detainees were not getting enough food.

“For breakfast, they were given a cup of tea and a slice of bread to detainees, and for lunch, a bowl of diluted soup. It was awful”, said B.

In addition to the poor conditions of stay, former detainees also talked about how the guards beat and abused them. Witness A said that during his stay, only two guards “treated them humanely”. Radmilo Codo said that Fahro Alic beat him three days after he was brought to the barracks.

“He said to me: ‘Stand against the wall, turn around, put your hands up’! He hit me two or three times. I fell on the floor, because I was so hurt pretty bad. He started hitting me in the stomach. I fainted, and when I came to my senses, I was wet and there was a bucket next to me. The blood flowed from your mouth”, said Codo.

Mustafa Keco, one of the former guards in the Central Prison and in prison in the former military barracks, said that there were never been any abuse in these facilities. “I responsibly claim this. At least in my shift, I’ve never seen any detainee abused whatsoever,” said Keco.

Contrary to him, witness Radoslav Skoco said that he witnessed the beating of detainees, and one of them even died. Skoco said that he took away this detainee by his hands out of the cell.

Witnesses also said that detainees were often taken out of the barracks to forced labour, and witness MB-1 said that he was taken to dig up the corpses in the Sarajevo settlement of Alipasino Polje. Although some have testified that proceedings were taken against them while they were detained, and that they were convicted, witnesses believe that they were detained because of their nationality.

Kicks by the Indictees

Speaking about the conduct of the indictee Avdovic, witness Zeljko Kljajic said that the indictee slapped him twice, while Dragomir Pejovic said that the indictee hit him once.

Ljubomir Drakul testified that he met Avdovic upon arrival at the barracks and that the indictee stood in lane and took part in beating of the men. However, answering the question of the Defence, Drakul replied that he was not sure.

Protected witness A said that it was possible to see Avdovic only in the hall, but that he heard that Avdovic “was taking away with him one detainee from Foca and seriously beat him”.

Some former detainees said that they did see Avdovic in the former barracks but that they did not see that he abused anybody.

Witness Zeljko Kljajic said that upon his arrival in the barracks, he met the indictee Iulian-Nicolae Vintila, who leaned him against the wall and hit him. “He punched me and I fell down immediately. He was the worst there, and I think that the grandchildren of detainees who were with me would know his name,” said the witness.

Ratko Avdalovic and Slobodan Gutaj said that they were beaten by the cook Vintila. Avdalovic said that Vintila once punched him with a fist and scoop, while Gutaj stated that Vintila was beating him in the cell.

“After he seriously beat me two or three times, I asked the detainee Damjanovic what his name was, and he told me that he is ‘the cook Vintila’”, said Gutaj, who, after the interrogation of the Defence of the indictee said that it is possible that he also replaced the identity of that person.

During his testimony, Witness MB-1 said that Iulian-Nicolae Vintila was in the “Viktor Bubanj” barracks, and that “he was tough”. “Whoever passed through his hands, passed through poorly”, said MB-1.

The Commander With or Without Jurisdiction

Several former detainees from “Viktor Bubanj” barracks said that they consider that Avdovic had a role of commander or the supervisor. Thus, Zeljko Kljajic claimed that the indictee was a shift commander, because he was visiting the prisoners in the morning, while Radivoje Skobo said that he thinks that Avdovic was manager because he “saw how he deploys the sergeants”

Zlatan Crnkovic, who interrogated the Serbs in the barracks, confirmed the indictee Avdovic’s function as the commander of the guards. He said that Avdovic was commander of the guards, but that he never beat anybody, and added that the men of “Ismet Bajramovic Celo, Juka and others” brought the Serbs to “Viktor Bubanj” barracks, and that the indictee Avdovic had to receive them.

Witness Ekrem Krkalic said that after he got the job in “Viktor Bubanj” barracks, he found Ramiz Avdovic, who the guards called the commander but he could not confirm whether Avdovic really executed that function.
Former guard, Ramiz Borcak, said that Avdovic was not Commander of the guards, because such a function did not exist.

“A commander of the guards did not exist. Ramiz Avdovic was the link with the Manager of the barracks, but officially, the commander did not exist. I think that he meant nothing in the barracks. All decisions could be solely made by the Manager,” said Borcak.

The Prosecution conducted its evidence for more than two years. Although the evidence procedure of the Prosecution has not yet been concluded, because they plan to subsequently interrogate another witness who is currently unavailable, the Defence of the first indictee Avdovic began with the presentation of its evidence.

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