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1 December 2015
News

Former Croat Member of Bosnian Army Describes Abuse at VIZ Prison

Jasmina Đikoli BIRN BiH Sarajevo

The first prosecution witness to testify at the trial of former VIZ prison managers and guards said he was held in various facilities in Herzegovina during his ten months of detention.

The state prosecution has charged Ivan Kraljevic, Mato Jelcic, Slavko Skender, Stojan Odak, Vice Bebek, Vinko Radisic and Dragan Milos with war crimes in Ljubuski.

According to the charges, Kraljevic, Jelcic and Skender were managers of the VIZ military investigation prison, located in the police building in Ljubuski, for various periods of time from September 1993 to March 1994. More than 100 Bosniaks from the municipalities of Mostar, Livno, Stolac, Jablanica, Maglaj, Zepce and other parts of Herzegovina were detained there.

The defendants have been charged with holding detained civilians and prisoners of war in inhumane conditions. They allegedly allowed the mistreatment of prisoners, gave them very little food and ordered them to perform forced labour.

Odak, Bebek, Radisic and Milos, former guards at the VIZ prison, have been charged with participating in the abuse of detained civilians and prisoners of war.

Vladimir Fink, a former commander of the Bosnian Army military barracks in Mostar, testified at today’s hearing. Fink said a group of up to 25 soldiers barged into the apartment he shared with his wife and two children on May 9, 1993. According to Fink, they were members of the Croatian Defense Council, who took him away for interrogation.

“Two days later I was transferred from the ministry of internal affairs building to Ljubuski. I stayed there until the end of June. Then they transferred me to Heliodrom and then to Dretelj...In late September they took me back to Ljubuski,” Fink said. He said he found out that his wife and daughters had been forced to leave their apartment.

Fink said he “was beaten once or twice” while in the VIZ prison by unknown soldiers. He said the guards allowed soldiers to enter the yard in front of the VIZ prison.

“They took me and Rudi Jozelic out often. They mistreated us because we were Croat members of the Bosnian Army. They showed us around like circus animals. I was present when Rudi was beaten for the first time...They kicked him. They broke his ribs...They once forced him to pretend he was an airplane, so he had to jump down chest or head first and hit the sand,” Fink said.

Fink said he was unable to remember who the prison managers were, and only knew Skender. He said he had known Skender in Mostar from before the war. Prosecutor Remzija Smailagic asked Fink whether he could remember who the VIZ guards were. Fink mentioned a guard named Odak, whom he described as “a bit more violent than the others.”

Commenting on the conditions in the VIZ prison, Fink said he thought about 100 people were held in five or six prison cells. He said they were mostly from Mostar, Stolac and Capljina.

“We slept on wooden boards...We were given food once a day and we had to eat quickly. They would let us use the toilet for a few seconds,” Fink said. He said a few detainees were held in the basement, where “the floor was flooded with water up to their knees and they were beaten with all sorts of objects.”

Vladimir Fink said the Red Cross registered him in Ljubuski. He said he stayed in detention until his exchange on March 19, 1994.

New prosecution witnesses will testify at the next hearing, scheduled for December 7.

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