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21 January 2016
News

State Prosecution Witnesses Describe Poor Living Conditions and Abuse in Ljubuski Prison

Marija Tausan BIRN BiH Sarajevo

State prosecution witnesses testified at the trial of former Bosnian Croat prison managers and guards charged with war crimes in Ljubuski. The witnesses described the poor living conditions and abuse they were exposed to during their detention in Ljubuski.

Stojan Odak, Ivan Kraljevic, Mato Jelcic, Slavko Skender, Vice Bebek, Vinko Radisic and Dragan Milos have been charged with torture, abuse and holding 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 times from September 1993 to March 1994. The other defendants were prison guards.

State prosecution witness Mehmed Zilic, a former member of the Bosnian Army, said he was detained as a prisoner of war at several location in Herzegovina. He said he was detained in Ljubuski twice, once for a brief period in May and June 1993, and then again from September 1994 until the spring of 1994.

Zilic said he was beaten during his detention and that prison officials forced him and another detainee to hit each other.

Zilic said he didn’t know who beat him and didn’t know whether they were policemen or soldiers.

Stojan Odak’s defense asked Zilic whether Odak and other guards beat detainees on their backs and genitals in November 1993.

“I can neither confirm nor deny that. I didn’t dare raise my head,” Zilic said.

Zilic said he was detained in a basement premises with no light for about ten days.

“They put me into that small room...There was nothing but a tiny hole in the door...Water pouring down the wall. There was no place to sit down...A day seemed as long as a year,” Zilic said. He said he was transferred to a cell upstairs later on, but couldn’t see anything for a certain period of time.

Zilic said he could “say nothing but nice words” about guard and defendant Dragan Milos. He said during his second detention in Ljubuski, he heard that Slavko Skender was the manager of the facility.

“He ordered them to give us razors so we could shave. He provided us with hot water, gave us blankets...We started getting tea and bread in the morning. They would ask us if we wanted more during lunch. I looked for him in Mostar in order to have a drink together. He treated us in a correct manner, just like Milos,” Zilic said.

Hamdija Jahic was the second state prosecution witness to testify at today’s hearing. He said he was detained in Ljubuski as a civilian. He said he wasn’t physically abused, but suffered an “even worse” fate when prison officials entered his cell with the intention of killing him. Jahic said they had mixed him up with another man.

“You can only imagine how shocked I was,” Jahic said.

According to his Jahic, Ljubuski detainees were abused every day. He said the living conditions were particularly bad in the basement, where he was detained with a few other prisoners for a certain period of time.

“It was horrible. It was November, rather cold. We gathered some wood so that we could stand on it, because there was between 10 to 30 centimeters of water on the floor...One couldn’t lie down. We warmed each other with our bodies,” Jahic said.

He said the conditions in the prison remained the same with the arrival of Skender, but “the evening intrusions” stopped.

Jahic said others told him he should beware of men named “Stole and Vice” during his detention.

The trial will continue on January 9.

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