Radio Free Europe: New investigations of crimes in Zvornik
The Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor submitted a request to the investigative judge of the War Crimes Chamber of Belgrade District Court to conduct an investigation against six persons, suspected of having committed war crimes against Roma civilians in the villages of Skočići, Malešić, Petkovci and Drinjaca, in the municipality of Zvornik in 1992.
Five people were arrested tonight in Serbia, and the sixth is already serving sentence for war crimes against Bosniaks in Sjeverin.
The accused are charged with killing at least 23 Roma civilians on 11th July 1992, and raping and abusing women. The statement alleges that the defendants first held their victims in a house where they beat them with rifle butts, and physically and mentally tortured them.
It must be said that this is the first time that perpetrators of crimes against Roma have been arrested and the first time that the Prosecutor has filed charges for the crime of rape committed during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bruno Vekaric, spokesperson for the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor, gave Radio Free Europe details about the arrest of five persons in Serbia for rape in eastern Bosnia, the scene of the worst crimes during the war in Bosnia:
“I want to say that the crimes were committed under especially difficult circumstances, and that it is the first act of rape to be addressed, because we have clear evidence of this. I will convey to you only one part of our request: three women were taken from the villages of Malešić, Petkovci and Drinjaca and held in a house. At least 22 civilians were taken to the pit in Hamzic where during the night each one of them was killed with firearms and knives. The suspects returned to Malešić village where they raped the women every day. ”
THE SUSPECTS ARE MEMBERS OF THE SRS AND THE CHETNIK MOVEMENT
While the infamous criminals Arkan and Legija were in command in the area at the time, there is no confirmation that the suspects were under their command, said Bruno Vekaric.
Natasha Kandic, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Law Center, who filed a crime report for these crimes more than a year ago told Radio Free Europe:
“According to our information they were members of the Serbian Radical Party, the Serbian Chetnik Movement and some of them held senior positions; at that time they were very popular and important as Chetnik vojvoda (Dukes). They were very well organized, arriving from Serbia in eastern Bosnia and taking part in various operations which concern the killing of civilians. And in the village of Skočići they committed terrible crimes against the Roma civilians who failed to flee. ”
Natasa Kandic further explains that this is a very important case because, among others, this is the first case of crimes, not only killing, committed against Roma to be prosecuted.
“What we found and identified in criminal charges, is that there were not only killings, but rape too; the use of Roma women to do housework, cleaning, etc. So, they were completely enslaved” said Kandic adding: “The public will have the opportunity to hear of the most terrible things that can happen to people who are completely unprotected, people who are not protected by a single state, or army. These girls were, after rape and abuse in eastern Bosnia, trafficked to Serbia and further abused.”
Kandic recalls the rare case of a girl who was saved.
“With the help of the International Red Cross, the parents of a underage girl who had been taken to Serbia and kept there as a slave, managed to find her in 1992 and take her from Serbia. She now lives a life marked by the horrifying experience that she had as a girl.”
NEW INVESTIGATION AND ARREST SOON
The case not only concerns the rape of Roma from eastern Bosnia but also the rape of young Bosniak women, specify our interlocutors. The public knows very little about this; it is still well hidden, said Natasa Kandic, giving one other example:
“We have information that a member of the Red Berets, called Crni, from Bosanski Samac brought a very young Bosniak woman from a well-known family to his house in Belgrade and kept her hidden there. In the end, with the help of her sisters, she managed to escape from that member of the Red Berets. ”
Natasa Kandic draws particular attention to the Roma victims. The example of the crime in Zvornik shows how difficult it is to collect data about them.
“Our data show that there were more than 20 victims. It is difficult to determine exactly the correct number. Many Roma have moved away. Their memories are not recorded. It is very hard to get the information. Where Roma are concerned, the data is very, very difficult to collect because the Roma move and do not return to the place where they were,” said Kandic.
The Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office announced arrests relating to two crimes in Croatia, which will be processed in Belgrade, because the perpetrators are in Serbia. This is the result of cooperation between the Serbian and the Croatian Prosecutors’ Offices.