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18 February 2016

Witness Describes Abuse and Torture in Ljubuski Prison

Nedim Hasic BIRN BiH Sarajevo

Testifying at the trial of seven defendants charged with war crimes in Ljubuski, a prosecution witness described arrests and beatings that occurred in a prison in that town.

Defendants Ivan Kraljevic, Mato Jelcic, Slavko Skender, Stojan Odak, Vice Bebek, Vinko Radisic and Dragan Milos have been charged with torturing, abusing and detaining civilians and prisoners of war in inhumane conditions.

According to the charges, Kraljevic, Jelcic and Skender were managers of a prison in Ljubuski at various periods of time from September 1993 to March 1994. The other defendants were guards.

Testifying at today’s hearing, prosecution witness Mehmed Kapic said he was arrested when he was the director of the Kostana hospital in Stolac in May 1993. Immediately after his arrest he was taken to prison. He said he was detained in Capljina for approximately ten days. He said he was transferred to the Gabela detention camp and then to a prison in Ljubuski. He said he was beaten right after his arrival in the Ljubuski prison.

“A man who introduced himself as John the Baptist beat me up. He had a huge pendant in the form of a cross. He kicked my shins,” Kapic said. He said he was then transferred to an isolation cell.

He said he recognized many people from Stolac. He said the most important detainees, or the “big fish,” as the guards called them, were separated from the others. He said they were beaten every day.

“The food was horrible. A small can and a thin slice of bread. I asked for more bread. They beat me up because I didn’t use the Croatian word for bread,” Kapic said. He said his cell was full of mice, but he got used to them. He said the mice crept into his pants.
Later on, Kapic said he was transferred to a cell in the basement. He said the room was full of water and had a window at ground level.

“Four of us were held in it. Guards would come and urinate on us through that window,” Kapic said.

While he was in isolation, Kapic said Nedjeljko Matic, also known as Nedo, beat him most often.

“He forced me to take a certain position and then kicked me. He said he did karate, so he was practicing on me,” Kapic said.

Kapic said when he fainted, his assailants would stop beating him. Kapic said the beatings continued and that he pretended to faint after being hit two or three times, so they would stop beating him. He said Matic brought his father to Kapic one evening, so that he could examine his spine. He then beat him on the following day.

He said he requested to meet prison manager Ivan Kraljevic, whom he had known previously. He said he wanted to be transferred out of the isolation cell. He said Kraljevic received him about twenty days later. Kapic said he asked Kraljevic for better treatment and said that they should be humane. He said he told Kraljevic that the war would eventually end and they would meet each other again.

“He told me we would never meet again,” Kapic said.

According to Kapic, Dragan Milos was the only guard who helped the prisoners. He said he would secretly bring them food and helped them bathe when the manager wasn’t in the prison. He said Slavko Skender, who replaced Kraljevic, improved the conditions in the prison.

“He had the walls painted and the cells disinfected. There were no more mice. The conditions improved with his arrival,” Kapic said.

The trial will continue on March 3.
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