Friday, April 27, 2012

#Bosnia : Genocidal rape in Visegrad purportrated by Serbs

Uploaded by on 18 Apr 2009

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Serbian forces overran the town on Bosnia and Herzegovina's eastern river border with Serbia in mid-April 1992, when the Yugoslav army's Uzice corps took it with tanks and heavy artillery.

Documents held at the Hague tribunal say the situation in Visegrad was relatively calm until the Uzice corps started to pull out, leaving the town in the hands of local Serbian paramilitaries.

This conflicts with the accounts of witnesses who spoke to Balkan Insight and who say the terror began when the Yugoslav army arrived.

These survivors said they often hid in nearby woods and fields to escape the Serbian paramilitary units that worked alongside the army.

The "Wolves", "White Eagles" and "Avengers" - allegedly headed by Milan Lukic - were some of the paramilitary units they mentioned.

The Uzice corps officially pulled out of Visegrad on May 19, leaving control in the hands of a new Serb-run municipality.

These then conducted a vigorous campaign of ethnic cleansing to rid the town of its non-Serbian majority population.

The last available census, made in 1991, declared 62 per cent of Visegrad's population of 21,200 were Muslim Bosniaks. Serbs accounted for 32 per cent. Today, only a handful of Bosniaks has returned.

International human rights organisations and refugees reported on the atrocities in Visegrad back in 1992.

They told of people being killed en masse and of bodies being thrown off the Ottoman-era bridge that has long been the town's landmark.

As survivors fled, reports of rape and sexual abuse of women trickled in, prompting Amnesty International to publish an extensive report on rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina, mentioning Visegrad as a prime example.

A UN report in 1994 on rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina meanwhile singled out the Vilina Vlas as one of the spots where these rapes occurred.

The report said the hotel became a detention camp for women in which girls less than 14 years old were also held.

It cited the testimony of one woman who said that during 24 hours nine soldiers raped her. She also said she saw other women undergoing the same ordeal.

Alexandra Stiglmayer, a German reporter, also wrote about the goings-on in Vilina Vlas, publishing a book on women rape victims in Bosnia and Herzegovina named "Mass Rape: The war against women in Bosnia and Herzegovina".

She told Balkan Insight that in 1993 or 1994 an investigator from the Hague Tribunal took all of her material relating to rapes in Visegrad and asked her if she would be willing to testify about this evidence in the court, to which she agreed. Stiglmayer was contacted once again in 1999 when she reiterated her willingness to testify but was never called upon again by the Hague.

In 1996, the Guardian newspaper published extracts of a confession by one Serb soldier called Mitar Obradovic after he had been captured by the Bosnian army.

The confessions included statements by Obradovic on how men under Milan Lukic sexually abused women prisoners in Visegrad.

Obradovic said Lukic had raped many women and encouraged his troops to do the same.
The Washington Post in 1992 also carried the reports of one girl aged 17 from Visegrad, saying Milan Lukic raped her. She described and named Lukic, saying he had taken her and her sister to Vilina Vlas.

She said her sister never returned from the hotel, and after her mother asked Lukic abut the fate of her other daughter, he answered that "she should be happy he had returned one of them".
The Hague court first pressed charges over crimes in Visegrad in 1998 in a joint indictment against Milan and Sredoje Lukic and Mitar Vasiljevic.

The indictment said Vilina Vlas had been used to incarcerate prisoners who were tortured, beaten up and sexually abused.