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13 April 2015
My story

My story: We cannot be buried alive

Džana Brkanić BIRN BiH Sarajevo

H.S. spent nearly two years in the Rasadnik detention camp in Rogatica. She told BIRN-Justice Report about how she survived the camp, and the fate of the other captives. When she found out after her release that her four sons had been murdered, she was completely broken. Today, the 80 year old has no one to open her door to.

H.S. lived in a village near Rogatica. Six months after the beginning of the war, H.S. said, she and her husband were told to leave the village, as their neighbours couldn’t protect them. H.S., her husband, and a few other elderly and ill Bosniaks were taken to the Rasadnik detention camp in Rogatica.

She said that when they came to Rogatica, a man named Rajko, who was the same age as her son, entered the bus.

“He looked to check whether there were any young men or women on the bus, but there weren’t. He said, ‘take them to Rasadnik, and left,” H.S. said. She said she met other captives at the detention camp.

She described the conditions in the detention camp as inhumane - she said the prisoners slept on the floor, relieved themselves in a bucket, and didn’t receive adequate amounts of food.

“The manager of the detention camp came and said, ‘Take everything off, jewelry, money, everything you have.’ He took everything. Slavko from Pjesevica was the manager, until we were taken over by Vinko B. When he took over, the killings started. Every night, when he took someone away, they didn’t come back,” H.S. said.

Torture and Murder of Rasadnik Prisoners

H.S. said she witnessed the murder of a prisoner named Becir Cutahija, who was disabled. Everyday, she said, Vinko would take him away and beat him.

“In the slaughterhouse room, he cut Becir Cutahija to pieces with a chainsaw. I didn’t see him cut him, but I cleaned the flesh and blood,” H.S. said.

According to H.S., Vinko told her to clean the room after the murder. When she went there, she said she saw blood on the ceiling and on the cupboard.

“I scrubbed up and down...but you can’t wash it off. You’d wash, and the blood, it seemed, was spreading more,” said H.S. She said Vinko told her that if she didn’t wash off the blood, he would kill her.

“I was barely able to wash anything, [I did] as much as I could,” she said.

With regards to Cutahija, she said a prisoner named Sinan Catic told her they put Cutahija’s hands on a log and cut him slowly with the chainsaw, until he lost consciousness. H.S. said Catic was ordered to carry away parts of Cutahija’s body and bury them under a birch tree.

Based on information given to her by Catic, who was also killed, she said after the war she revealed the location of Becir Cutahija’s burial site.

H.S. said Vinko also murdered a prisoner named Alija Parnica.

“I watched how he beat him. He stripped him naked and tied him up in the middle of the room. He tied his left hand to his right foot and his right hand to his left foot. I was washing the dishes in the hallway.

He [Vinko] said to me, ‘Get in here and see what I do to Ustashas.’ He took a police baton, and started to beat and beat [him], and the man yelled, ‘It hurts, it hurts,’ until he died. He killed him,” H.S. said.

She said a prisoner named Ibraga Karaman, who was 27 at the time, was murdered in a similar way. According to H.S., prisoners captives Adil and Nail Musevic, Himzo Brankovic, Alija Tabakovic and others were also murdered.

“He wounded Alija Tabakovic in the leg, then he dragged him out near our building. ‘My brother, don’t kill me,’Alija shouted. ‘Since when am I your brother?’ [Vinko said]. And he dragged him there. Then the crack was heard. They threw him alive into a septic tank,” H.S. said.

Rape of the Female Prisoners

H.S. was able to see where the captives were buried - she was free to move within the camp because she washed, cleaned and made coffee for Vinko B. H.S. said he beat men all night, but didn’t beat the women.
“We [the women] were doing everything, carrying wood, we did whatever he told us to do,” H.S. said.

H.S., who was a young woman during her detention, said Vinko raped her several times. According to H.S., he sexually abused other female prisoners as well.

“He took away E several times, I know he raped her and gave her some pills. He also raped a woman who had just given birth. He also raped F.K. They also found some sick woman...I just heard her moaning. She had scabies and head lice,” H.S. said.

She said Vinko tried to rape the sick woman as well, but she told him that her health was poor. He urged another captive to rape her instead.

“He told me to take off my scarf and pulled out...He put it in my mouth. I threw up. He said, ‘What you did is unfair,” she said.

She said she was one of the last prisoners in Rasadnik to be exchanged in 1994. After her release, she found out that her sons had been killed.

“My four sons were killed. That is my sorrow, no one is left alive. We were also evicted. Now, my husband is ill. As the years pass by, it’s getting worse and worse. I’m happy when someone opens my door. We cannot be buried alive,” H.S. said.

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