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28 January 2016
News

Witnesses Describe Arrests and Subsequent Abuse in Ljubuski Detention Site

Nedim Hasić BIRN BiH Sarajevo

Testifying at the trial of seven defendants charged with Ljubuski crimes, a protected witness identified defendant Ivan Kraljevic as the man who apprehended him on a bus, beat him and escorted him to a prison in Capljina.

Ivan Kraljevic, Mato Jelcic, Slavko Skender, Vice Bebek, Vinko Radisic, Stojan Odak and Dragan Milos are on trial for holding civilians and prisoners of war in an uninhabitable detention site, as well as torturing and abusing them.

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

Testifying at today’s hearing, a protected witness known S-6 said he was travelling from Zagreb to Kiseljak by bus when he was apprehended. He said he and two other passengers were taken off the bus while in Doljani.

“They [their captors] told us to kneel down and salute the Herceg-Bosnia state flag. I knelt too slowly, so he hit me,” S-6 said.

He said he didn’t know at the time that one of his captors was named Kraljevic. He said a guard told him his name when he saw him again at a prison in Ljubuski.

S-6 said he was taken to Mostar from Capljina, where he was sentenced to death. He said he and two other prisoners were taken away for execution by shooting at a location above the Partisan Cemetery in Mostar.

“Two soldiers quarreled about which one would shoot us. They wanted to throw us away at a dump site, where another body had already been placed. Luckily, UN soldiers passed by and saved us,” S-6 said. He said he was transferred from Mostar to a prison in Ljubuski, where he witnessed the beating and mistreatment of detainees.

“A Croat who used to be a member of the Bosnian Army had the worst treatment. He was a flight instructor. They beat him all the time,” S-6 said.

A protected witness known as S-7 was the second witness to testify at today’s hearing. S-7 said he was apprehended from his house and taken to the Ljubuski prison. He said the detainees were initially given no water and food, and acquired lice as well. S-7 said the prison manager who replaced Kraljevic supplied them with water and had a water heater installed.

“I saw a man being beaten only once. I heard others were beaten as well, but I didn’t see it,” S-7 said. He said he used to work as a mechanic in the prison along with two other detainees.

“A man called Zuti was the manager. He was replaced by Skender. I repaired Zuti’s car. He told me not to worry. Skender introduced order into the prison,” S-7 said. He spent 11 months in the prison.

The trial will continue on February 4.

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