Rape as a Crime Against Humanity


This page is dedicated to thousands of Bosnian women brutally raped by the extremist forces of Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic

The Community of Bosnia Foundation in cooperation with the Collection Committee of Haverford College is proud to present a survivor of the Trnopolje concentration camp as our guest speaker for the March 17th Collection that will be held in the Stokes Auditorium at the Haverford College.


Haverford College Collection Speaker

On Monday March 17, 1997, at Stokes Auditorium, 6:30 PM, a survivor of the genocide at Kozarac and the atrocities at the Trnopolje concentration and rape camp gave a talk at Haverford College Collection. The event took place at the Stokes Auditorium, at 6:30pm.

During the aggression of Serb ethnonationalists on Bosnia, thousands Muslim women and girls were raped. Many of them were taken into the rape camps, and held there for weeks, even months. There many of them they suffered tortures, multiple rapes and other severe traumas. The survivor survived one such camp, and she has a story to tell about it.

On Friday, March 14, 1997, she spoke a private reception in Philadelphia co-sponsored by Gather (Global Action to Help End Rape) and The Community of Bosnia Foundation at Haverford. She will speak along with Binaifer Nowrojee, Rwanda specialist with Human Rights Watch/Africa, Trudi Rubin, columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Michael Sells, President of the Community of Bosnia Foundation and author of The Bridge Betrayed: Religion and Genocide in Bosnia (University of California Press, 1996). For the text of Alisa's talk at Haverford College see

"Genocide at Kozarac and the Trnopolje Concentration Camp."

Muslim women in Foca (southeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina) were subjected to a brutal regime of gang rape, torture and enslavement by Bosnian Serb soldiers, policemen and members of paramilitary groups after the takeover of the city in April 1992, according to a major indictment issued by the International Tribunal dealing specifically with sexual offenses.

The indictment charges Dragan GAGOVIC, Gojko JANKOVIC, Janko JANJIC, Radornir KOVAC, Zoran VUKOVIC, Dragan ZELENOVIC, Dragoljub KUNARAC and Milorad STANKOVIC with crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and Violations of the Laws or Customs of War. It was confirmed by Judge VOHRAH on 26 June 1996. Warrants for the accused's arrest were issued on 26 June and were sent to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska.

The indictment is of major legal significance as it is the first time that sexual assaults have been diligently investigated for the purpose of prosecution under the rubric of torture and enslavement as a crime against humanity.


Indictment: Gagovic and Others (Foca), Part I

Indictment: Gagovic and Others (Foca), Part II

Indictment: Gagovic and Others (Foca), Part III

See also the articles documenting NATO refusal to arrest the indicted organizers of the Foca rape camps, including two particularly blatant examples in which NATO troops were caught with the rape-camp organizers, despite persistent denials by NATO commanders that NATO troops have encountered criminals indicted at The Hague. According to the Dayton Peace agreement, NATO troops are required to arrest and extradict to The Hague any indicted criminals they encounter. These articles appear under the title "NATO fraternization with indicted rape-camp organizers: Radovan Stankovic and Gojko Jankovic." This link includes Jordan Paust's brief legal definitions regarding complicity, dereliction of duty, and violation of legal obligations, as well as some reports describing the NATO's lack of action in regards to arresting and extraditing the indicted war criminals.



Newsday, April 19. 1993

by Roy Gutman
Europe Correspondent
Posted with the permission of the author.

Kirklareli, Turkey-- First, the Serb soldiers arrested Beba's husband and took him to a concentration camp in the southeast Bosnian town of Foca. Two months later, she said, armed Serb men returned to her village to rape the unprotected Muslim left behind.

Beba was raped. She fled to Foca, and there, from an apartment belonging to a Muslim family, she observed the daily ritual of sexual abuse at the Partizan sports center.

"I saw the same men entering and leaving daily" with women in tow, the 24-year-old Muslim woman, who asked to be identified by a fictitious name, told Newsday. "I can say in Foca there were 50 men involved in rape. They slept during the day and raped at night."

Beba's observations of organized and systematic rape over two weeks were corroborated by six other rape victims who spoke to a Newsday reporter at this refugee camp in Kirklareli, north of Istanbul and in a predominantly Muslim town in southern Serbia.

Their accounts suggest that Serb authorities not only approved the systematic rape of Muslim women in Foca but made a public display of rape at Partizan hall. One woman at Partizan was raped more than 100 times in two months. A gynecologist who examined her shortly after her release told Newsday her account was entirely credible.

"The first rapes began a week or two after the Serb takeover in early April" last year, said Alija Delimustafic, who at the time was Bosnian interior minister. "They compiled lists. They arrested the men. They ordered women to stay in their home villages. They warned them they would kill their fathers or husbands if they moved away."

After an interval varying from a few weeks to two months, armed men in uniforms, either police reserves, militiamen, or other paramilitary forces, combed the villages, conducting house-to-house "interrogations." According to several victims interviewed by Newsday, the "interrogations" began with questions about hidden weapons but were quickly transformed into rape at gunpoint.

Beba's husband was seized in May, and his fate is unknowm. In mid-July, on the excuse that they were searching for weapons, the men, armed and in uniform, forced their way into the home of a 17-year-old girl and ordered her to accompany them to Beba's house. As Beba watched, she said, they raped the teenager.

Beba's turn came a few days later, and though she was caring for her newborn, she was taken along with the teenage girl to a house outside Foca and raped after a mock interrogation.

Beba escaped the ordeal by fleeing to Foca on her own and spent two weeks close to Partizan. Those brought to the former sports cetner by police were rapes repeatedly for weeks on end. Far from intervening to halt the crime, victims said, local police sometimes referred some Muslim women to Partizan to await safe passage out of the region.

One 41-year-old woman said she had complianed to police after a group rape in which uniformed men molested her and a close relative, aged 19. The police said there was no need to see a doctor "but that we should go to Partizan and wait for a convoy," said the woman, who asked to be identified by her initial "B." But after watching guards abduct four women from Partizan, B. and her relative fled and hid in the attic of relatives for a month.

M.C., a 28-year-old shopkeeper in Foca who asked to be identified only by her initials, had no escape. She told Newsday that Serbs attacked her village of Trosanj on June 3, and about 50 people, mostly women, were taken in trucks and private vehicles to a workes' barracks called Buk Bijela. "The raping began immediately. Twice that day, " she said.

Then they were ordered for 10 days to a high school, where she was raped by three men, and finally to Partizan. Of the 74 people at Partizan, 50 were women and the rest children and some older people. About 30 young women were the main targets. "Only the women over 50 were safe," M.C. said. "They always took the 10 youngest from the sports hall," she said in an interview at a refugee center in Turkey. The woman said she was raped about 150 times during the two months of her ordeal.

After picking the women for the night, guards took them to a nearby apartment or house, victims said. On one occasion shortly before the main group was allowed to leave, a woman, 40, was raped in the middle of the hall. "The guard beat her. She cried," said a woman, 44, who asked to be identified only by her initials, R.C.

On Aug.12, guads ordered M.C. to an outdoor stadium where, she said, uniformed soldiers gang-raped her and other women. "I counted 29 of them. Then I lost consciousness," said the mother of two young children. When she came to, she heard to the commander telling the troops: "Enough is enough." There was a quarrel, gunfire, and then the officer, who had taken part in assault, drove her back to the Partizan sports hall.

The rapes within Partizan represent only a tiny fraction of the assaults againts the Muslim women of Foca. There seemed to be a special regime for the prettiest and the smartest women, who were singled out for the most frequent raping, several witnesses said. They said those women have not been seen since.

"Four young girls from Partizan were taken away, never to return," said R.C. Three were teenagers--14, 16, and 17 years old. "When they take you away, they may kill you. So if you are raped, you feel lucky. At least you're alive," she said. R.C. acknowledged she had been raped, but she would not say how many times.

The women kept in Partizan hall finally boarded buses organized by Serb authorities Aug. 13 and were taken to Montenegro, the first stop in what looks to be a permanent deportation.

M.C. is relieved to be far from home. Of the hundreds of women who emerged alive after the ordeal of last summer, at least 40 had become pregnant and had abortions, and some had carried them to term, according to a Muslim doctor in southern Serbia. "Everybody said that if we didn't move out of Foca, every second woman would be pregnant, " added M.C.




Muslims recall Serb attacks

Newsday, Sunday, August 23, 1992

by Roy Gutman
Europe Correspondent
Posted with the permission of the author

Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina.--Serbs forces in northern Bosnia systematically raped 40 young Muslim women of a town they occupied early this summer, telling some of their victims they were under orders to do so, the young women say.

Statements by victims of the assault, describing their ordeal in chilling detail, bear out that the Serb conquerers of Bosnia have raped Muslim women, not as a byproduct of the war, but as a prinicipal tactic of the war.

" 'We have orders to rape the girls,' " Mirsada, 23, one of the young victims interviewed by Newsday, said that young man who abducted her told her. He said he was "ashamed to be a Serb" and added that "everything that is going on is a war crime," she said.

Hafiza, also 23, said she sought to dissuade the soldier who raped her. "I tried crying and begging, " she said. "I said, 'You have a mother and a sister, a female in the family.' He said nothing. He didn't want to talk. Then he said 'I must, I must.' I said, 'You must not, if you don't want to.' " But she was unable to stop him.

The incident involved 40 young women from Brezovo Polje, a small town on the Sava River, where conquering forces marched in, seized all the civilians, and dispatched them according to age and gender to their assigned fate.

The rape victims were interviewed in a refugee center, their only refuge after the destruction of economic survival. They agreed to be quoted and photographed, provided they were identified only by first name and age.

"We want the world to know about our truth. All mothers. All women," said Senada, 17, who wrote a statement by hand and gave it to the chief gynecologist at Tuzla Hospital with the request she pass it on to Newsday. "I wouldn't want anyone else to have the same experience. It is worse than any other punishment in the world."

The Brezovo Polje episode is only one of a number of indications of a pattern of systematized rape during the Serb conquest of Bosnia.

In separate interviews in Tuzla, four young women from the village of Liplje, near Zvornik....... makeshift bordello where three or more men raped them every night for 10 nights. A leading Bosnia women's group has charged that upward of 10,000 Bosnian women are currently being held in Serb detention camps where their captors rape them repeatedly, though that has not been independently confirmed. Another pattern is the rape of pregnant women and some middle-aged women.

Dr. Melika Kreitmayor, leader of the gynecological team that examined 26 of 40 victims from Brezovo Polje, said she and her colleagues are convinced that the object of the rapes was "to humiliate Muslim women, to insult them, to destroy their persons and to cause shock."

"These women were raped not because it was a male instinct. They were raped because it was the goal of the war," she said. "My impression is that someone had an order to rape the girls. "

She cited as proof that some young women said they had been taken to a house and not raped, but were instructed to tell others that they had been raped.

Kreitmayer, who is of Muslim origin and whose team included a Serb and a Slovene doctor, made those assertions without any sign of objection from her colleagues. "We are shocked by what we have heard, " commented her Serb colleague, Dr. Nenad Trifkovic.

According to the young women, the rapists discussed the assaults with their victims as a mission they had to accomplish. Many of the men fortified their resolve by taking white pills that appeared to stimulate them, the women said. "The men's claim they were operating under orders was reinforced when a new group of irregular forces arrived that owed its allegiance to one of the most savage of the warlords, Vojislav Seselj, a militant nationalist from Sarajevo. The leaders of the original group tried to protect the women of Brezovo Polje from the Seselj followers, the women indicated.

" ' Don't worry. The girls have been raped once,' " Zlata, 23, recalled one of the officers as telling the Seselj followers.

According to the victims, preparations for the mass rape began early on the morning of June 17, when Serb soldiers in army uniforms and masks piled out of their minivans and rounded up the Muslims of Brezovo Polje for "ethnic cleansing."

They loaded the able-bodied men from 18 to 60 onto buses and sent them "for interrogation" to Luka, a notorious, Serb-run detention camp in nearby Brcko, where nine in 10 prisoners were slaughtered, according to a survivor interviewed by Newsday.

Then they packed about 1,000 women, children, and old people into eight buses, drove them around the countryside for two days and held them under armed guard for four terrifying nights without food or water in a parking lot in the nearby town of Ban Brdo, the victims said. Serb soldiers returning from the front invaded the buses every night and led off women and girls to an unknown location at knife-point, recalled Senada, 17, "They threw them out in the morning, and their clothes were torn, and they were covered with blood, " she said.

Finally the group arrived in Caparde, where about 50 Serb irregulars, bearded followers of a warlord named Zeljko Arkan, robbed the mothers and forcibly separated them from their daughters. The mothers were taken by bus and deposited in a war zone. Meanwhile, in the Osnovo furniture warehouse in Caparde, where the daughters were held, the men, mostly with long beards in the style of the World War II Serbian royalist force known as the Chetniks, selected what one of the rapists said were the prettiest young women of Brezovo Polje and raped them in groups of 10.

Hajrija, 21, said she asked Dragan, the man who raped her why they were doing it. "He said we are the cleanest convoy that passes Caparde, the prettiest and most attractive, and that they wouldn't let us pass because we are so beautiful."

The victims are aged 15 to 30, with wholesome looks, careful dress and gentle manners.

"They would come by and tap us on the shoulder," recalled Hajrija, 21, one of the victims. "They told everyone else that we had gone to 'fetch water.' Some of the girls came back two hours later. Some the next morning. And each of them sat down and cried," she said.

The mothers arrived in Tuzla on June 23, distraught about their missing daughters and traumatized by the journey, which began with another bus ride and ended with a forced 12-mile walk through a war zone on a road littered with human corpses and animal carcasses.

Their daughters arrived four days later, after a forced walk across a mined road with a number of elderly people of whom died en route, they said.

The young women were exhausted and in a state of shock, doctors said. Most, according to the gynecologist team that later examined them, had vaginal infections of staphyllococcus and other bacteria that originate in dirt of fecal matter. Almost every one of 20 women interviewed by Newsday reported that the men who raped them were filthy and smelly, and in some cases had blood on their bodies/

The health and psychological stresses upon the young women of Brezovo Polje are only part of their tragedy, for each is missing a father or a brother as well as the material basis of their lives. They are women in the prime of the life, but few have anywhere to go, and the rapes have shaken their confidence. Almost every one broke into tears as she talked over several days to this reporter.

Their trauma is not over, for as Kretimayer noted, many of them may become pregnant. The hospital will provide hormonal drugs to induce abortion, she added.

The deepest hurt seems to be moral shame. These women were from the countryside, where premarital sex is prohibited, and Kreitmayer confirmed that all but one had been virgins at the time they were raped. Most of them think they have been ruined for life.

"We all feel we lost everything," said Heira, 25. "We have been abandoned. We have been imperiled. Every woman, if she is raped, has to feel the same."

Satka, 20, said she despised the man who raped her because "he had no feeling for me. I wasn't his girlfriend. It was savagery." She said she felt shame because "I was an honest girl. I was a virgin. I gave it to someone who didn't deserve it. Someone whom I love deserves it. But not a savage."

Meira, 17, said the man who raped her threatened her with a hand grenade. "Mine put a grenade in my hand. He told me 'All Serbs are good, and I am a good Serb.' And if I didn't agree, he could kill both of us with a bomb." The young man took the grenade back and out it on the table. Meira said she assumed he was ordered to rape her. He did not apologize "but said that he had to do it. He said it was better for me that he did it than the followers of Seselj, who rape 10 men to one women."

No such excuse seemed to be forthcoming in the rape of several pregnant women, who were so shattered that they asked to have their babies aborted.

Kreitmayer said one nurse from Brezovo Polje had lost her mother, father, husband, and 4-year-old child "in front of her eyes." The woman told doctors the Serb conquerors decided not to kill her but brought her to their military hospital. "She worked every day for them but every night she was raped. She was sick. She was desperate. She told them she was between two to three months pregnant. But it meant nothing for them," Kreitmayer said. The woman came to the gynecological clinic "so sick that she desperately wanted" an abortion, the doctor said.

For the young women of Brezovo Polje, shame alternates with anger. Each time this reporter returned to the school where they are living, a larger group of victims decided to join in the discussion. Rape has been so rare over the years in Bosnia that there are few professional counselors, and Kretimayer said that this was the first appearances of mass rape and aggression toward women.

The victims say that right now they would like to be anywhere but in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Most say that once they leave here, they do not plan to return ever again.


To learn more about the genocide at Kozarac and the rape and concentration in the area, see the war-crimes documentary page. Under the War-Crimes index, look up the following entries:

Kozarac (the town where the Mujagic family lived which was "cleansed" in May, 1992)

Trnopolje (the camp in which Alisa and Emsuda were held and in which organized rape took place)

Omarska (the most notorious camp run by Serbian religious nationalists, in which thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Catholics perished in the spring and summer of 1992).

See also the International Tribunal indictments against Dusan Tadic (a resident of Kozarac) for crimes against humanity at Kozarac, Tnrnopolje, and Omarska; against Zeljko Meakic, for genocide at Omarska, and against Radovan Karadzic, for genocide throughout Bosnia, in particular in the Kozarac-Omarska region of Bosnia.


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