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The BBC's Emma Simpson
"Its been a long difficult investigation"
 real 56k

Bosnian rape victim
"I begged them to kill me a million times"
 real 28k

Jacques Klein, co-ordinator of UN Operations
"I think it is a judgement that is long overdue"
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Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 15:44 GMT
Bosnian Serbs convicted of rape
Dragoljub Kunarac
Dragoljub Kunarac - 28 years in prison
Three Bosnian Serbs have been found guilty of rape and other crimes including torture and enslavement by the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

The three accused are not ordinary soldiers whose morals were merely loosened by the hardships of war

Judge Florence Mumba

The case, relating to offences against Muslim women in the Bosnian town of Foca, marks the first time that the tribunal has considered rape as a crime against humanity.

The crimes took place during the first months of the conflict in Bosnia- Hercegovina, after Serb forces had overrun the town and separated Muslim women and men into separate camps.

In the first verdict, Dragoljub Kunarac was found guilty on several counts of rape and torture and was sentenced to 28 years imprisonment.

'Glaring abuse'

"You abused and ravaged Muslim women because of their ethnicity, and from among their number you picked whoever you fancied," presiding Judge Florence Mumba told Kunarac.

Foca 1992
The destruction of Foca, April 1992

She said he had shown the most glaring abuse of their dignity and human rights.

In the second verdict, Radomir Kovac was found guilty of rape and enslavement and given a 20 year sentence.

The third defendant, Zoran Vukovic, was found guilty of rape and torture and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

"The three accused are not ordinary soldiers whose morals were merely loosened by the hardships of war," Judge Mumba told the court.

"They thrived in the dark atmosphere of the dehumanisation of those believed to be enemies."

Heart of darkness

In 1992 and 1993, when the events occured, human rights groups named Foca, in the south-east of the country, as the heart of darkness, where the women and girls, some as young as 12, were kept at a school, a sports hall, a motel and private homes.

Zoran Vukovic
Vukovic: 12 years for rape and torture
The indictment said that they were subjected to a pattern of sexual assault by Bosnian Serb soldiers.

Judge Mumba supported that view: "Rape was used by members of the Bosnian Serb armed forces as an instrument of terror."

The defence had argued that there was no evidence to prove this. The accused, who listened in silence to translations of the verdicts through headphones, had denied the charges against them.

During the 11-month trial, Muslim women, identified only by numbers, testified behind screens against the three men.

'Not intrinsic' to war

Some broke down as they testified.

One who was 15-years-old when the atrocities were committed told the court, "I think that for the whole of my life, all my life, I will feel the pain that I felt then."

Some of the women allegedly suffered gynaecological damage or had to give birth after being raped at Foca.

Foca is now in the part of Bosnia-Hercegovina administered by Bosnian Serbs, and no Muslims have returned to live there.

In 1993, there were reports of rape from all sides in the Bosnian conflict.

A European commission estimated there had been 20,000 rape victims.

Four other men indicted for rape crimes at Foca are still at large.

The human rights group Amnesty International welcomed the verdict.

A spokesman told BBC News Online that the decision "challenges the widespread assumption that the torture of women is somehow an intrinsic part of war".

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See also:

22 Feb 01 | Europe
The nightmare of Foca
22 Feb 01 | Europe
Rape: A crime against humanity
20 Feb 01 | Europe
Bosnia war criminals lose appeal
21 Jul 00 | Europe
Bosnian war criminal loses appeal
10 Jan 01 | Europe
Milosevic trial: Home or away?
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