Tribunal Hears of Rape
as Ethnic Cleansing Weapon
By Jennifer Scott
THE HAGUE, July 2 (Reuters) - Bosnian Serb soldiers were ordered to rape and sexually assault Muslim women as part of a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign during the Bosnian war, the U.N. war crimes tribunal heard on Tuesday.
Tribunal investigator Irma Oosterman told a public hearing how girls as young as 13 were systematically raped in brothels run by Serb police and paramilitaries.
Oosterman was giving evidence on the fourth day of genocide hearings against separatist Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military chief General Ratko Mladic. The tribunal's two most wanted men, accused of orchestrating the campaign of ethnic cleansing to purge areas of Bosnia of non-Serbs, were not directly implicated in the evidence. Neither was in court for the hearings, which are not a trial in absentia, but which allow prosecutors to present evidence against those charged with war crimes but not arrested.
Oosterman told the three tribunal judges how women in their sixties were raped in public, threatened with guns and knives and scarred by cigarette butts during brutal sexual assaults.
In their ruthless quest for ethnic purity, Bosnian Serbs made Muslims pregnant then held them in prison camps until abortion became impossible, forcing them to bear Serbian children as a living memory of war, the court heard. The hearing was a watershed in international law -- the first time the U.N. tribunal had publicly addressed the issue of rape as a weapon of war.
Christine Cleiren, a member of a U.N. experts commission probing atrocities in former Yugoslavia, said the systematic nature of the rapes pointed to a premeditated policy. "I think rape was part of this policy of ethnic cleansing," she told the court. "The strategy used and brutality, combined with the number of reports and similar statements, indicates there must have been a (rape) policy."
Earlier testimony against the Bosnian Serb leadership implied that rape was another weapon in the armoury of ethnic cleansing -- just as much as prison camps and mass slaughter.
Serb soldiers not only impregnated Muslim women, but also so shamed and humiliated their victims with degrading public sexual violence that they and their communities were forced to flee, said Oosterman, who personally heard graphic evidence of sexual atrocities from 50 victims. "Soldiers took women out of the camps, ordered them to wash themselves, then said: "I'm going to make a Chetnik (Serb nationalist) baby'," she said.
Women and young girls were not the only victims. "Men were forced to perform fellatio on each other -- even sons and fathers," Oosterman said, recounting how one man had to bite off another's penis, while a third victim had to eat it.
Sexual atrocities were particularly horrific in Foca, in southeast Bosnia, where women, children and the elderly were held in houses and apartments run as brothels by paramilitaries. "Even the chief of police knew about it," Oosterman said.
Last week the tribunal indicted eight Serbs on specific charges of rape and sexual assault at Foca. The seven-day hearing is expected to close on Friday.
The first body to prosecute war crimes since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War Two, the tribunal has charged 75 men, primarily Serbs, with war crimes. It holds seven accused in its Hague cells.
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Berserkistan, June 1 · Women's Balkan Link to Aid Rape Victims, Build Peace
Women for Women in Bosnia
Rape Used as a Tactic Fact sheet provided by Women for Women in Bosnia
Serbian Women Victims of War Dr. Sanda Raskovic
The Rape of Bosnia Systematic Rape in Bosnia
Testimonies of Rape
Bosnia, Rape and the Problem of Evil by Greg Koukl
Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court Cornell University
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