Muslim tells of soldiers raping her at age 15


Muslim tells of soldiers raping her at age 15:

Bosnian war tribunal focuses on sex crimes



By MARLISE SIMONS



Source: New York Times



Published Sunday, February 18, 2001



THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Witness No. 50 was 15 when the soldiers 

picked her

out at the detention center.



Her mother and her grandmother watched her leave, still nurturing their

dream that one day their girl would wear her veil, just as they had 

done,

for a Muslim wedding in the village, with everyone dancing to Bosnian 

music

under the trees.



When she was brought back, shaking and crying, she kept her eyes down.



She would not say a word or look her mother in the face. Night after 

night,

it kept happening, soldiers taking her away and raping her, sometimes 

four

or five at a time.



Witness No. 50, as she is known to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The

Hague, is now a troubled refugee, old at 23, one of the many whose 

lives

were changed forever by the Bosnian war of 1992-95.



For eight years, she did not speak of the hellish months in 1992 when 

she

and other imprisoned women were trapped in "quasi brothels" in the town 

of

Foca in southeastern Bosnia, passed around from soldier to soldier. She

became pregnant. Her mother was raped. And finally, last year, she 

blurted

out her story in the tribunal's courtroom.



"I was ashamed before," she told the judge, Florence Mumba of Zambia. 

"Those

words could not come out of my mouth."



Her account, delivered between sobs and bursts of anger, has been 

common at

the Foca trial, the first to focus entirely on wartime crimes of sexual

violence. Three former Bosnian Serb fighters are charged with mass rape 

and

forced prostitution involving dozens of women and girls.



This is also the first trial in which an international court is 

prosecuting

sexual slavery. "After World War II, tribunals dealt with slavery only 

in

the form of slave labor," said Patricia Sellers, a legal adviser for 

sexual

crimes to the prosecutor. "But forced prostitution was never tried."



Legal scholars and human rights groups say they are now looking to the

judges' verdict, planned for Thursday, as a ruling that may set an 

important

precedent. Prosecutors are asking for prison sentences of 15 to 35 

years.



The three former soldiers agree they participated in the attack on Foca 

in

1992.



But the six lawyers for the defense have rejected the charges. They

presented alibis for Dragoljub Kunarac. A doctor testified Zoran 

Vukovic had

become impotent during the relevant time.



While not denying rape took place, they argued prosecutors had not 

proved

rape because some women liked the soldiers.



"They did not prove that the alleged victims of rape were exposed to 

any

severe physical or psychological suffering," said the chief defense 

counsel,

Slavisa Prodanovic. "The rape in itself is not an act that inflicts 

severe

bodily pain."





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