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Friday 23 August 2019

Teenage sex slave relives nightmare of rape camps

IN ONE of the most wrenching testimonies at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, a woman yesterday shattered years of silence and relived her...

IN ONE of the most wrenching testimonies at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, a woman yesterday shattered years of silence and relived her nightmare as a teenage sex slave in Bosnian Serb rape camps.

Alternating between sobs and outrage, the woman described in horrific detail how she and other girls were passed from soldier to soldier, who raped and tortured them night after night in the summer of 1992, when she was 15 years old.

``There are no words in this world that can describe my feeling,'' she told the UN judges in The Hague. ``It was the worst that could happen to me.''

The woman, identified as witness Number 50, testified from behind a screen at the landmark rape trial the first international prosecution of sexual enslavement which began last week.

Former Bosnian Serb fighters Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovac and Zoran Vukovic have all pleaded innocent to the rape, sexual enslavement and torture of women and girls in Foca, southeast of Sarajevo in Bosnia.

FORCEFUL

Scores of women were herded into a school, sports hall and motel at the outset of the Bosnian war. Prosecutors say the so-called rape camps formed part of an `ethnic cleansing' operation aimed at humiliating Muslim women and terrorising their families.

The defendants, flanked by blue-uniformed guards, sat unflinchingly as the witness testified in full view of them.

Describing Kunarac, she said: ``I remember he was very forceful. He wanted to hurt me. But he could never hurt me as much as my soul was hurting me.''

At Partisan sports hall, where some 50 women were detained, Serb soldiers would ``pick and choose'' their victims, she said.

``Every night, some girl would end up in some place with some soldier, many times with the same soldier. They would always do this by pointing their finger: `You! You! You!'''

An anguished silence pervaded the courtroom as the woman was gently guided by questions from US prosecutor Peggy Kuo, who repeatedly apologised for requesting more detail.

BARBARITY

The witness said she was raped so many times, she did not know the number. Asked to describe those instances she remembered, the victim recounted a litany of outrages that conjured up scenes of medieval barbarity and Christian-Muslim holy wars.

One knife-wielding soldier threatened to gouge a crucifix in her flesh as a bloody baptism.

He also forced her to drink alcohol, a sacrilege against Islam, as he raped her.

``He was so terrible,'' she cried. ``He did such horrible things that I cannot explain them. I had no place to take a bath.''

Another Serb, whom she recognised as a married neighbour 20 years her senior, imprisoned her in an apartment for three days as his personal sex slave. In yet another case, around 10 soldiers took turns raping her and two other girls in the former home of the local Muslim tailor.

Until last weekend, the witness said, she could not bring herself to discuss the details of her victimisation with anyone. But she mustered the nerve to tell the whole story to the court ``to let it be known that it really happened''.

The woman completed three generations of one family to take the witness stand in the Foca trial.

Her mother, who was also raped, and her grandmother, whose husband was mutilated and then murdered, testified earlier this week.

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