UN 'given evidence of torture in January'

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The Independent Online
MOTHERS for Peace, a Canadian humanitarian group, said yesterday that it provided evidence to the United Nations in January about torture and ill treatment in concentration camps in Bosnia.

A woman representing the group, Velentina Krcmar, met Sir David Hannay, Britain's UN Ambassador, on 10 January, when he was President of the Security Council, and passed on information about alleged Serbian atrocities against civilians and combatants captured after the fall of Vukovar. Sir David is said to have told her there was little he could do but that the group should take its complaints to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

Three months later, on 9 April, the Human Rights Commission expressed its gravest concern about atrocities committed and said it 'greatly regrets the many cases of summary or arbitrary execution, forced or involuntary disappearance, torture, rape and pillage committed by members of the federal Army as well as paramilitary groups and militias.' Visits by Red Cross officials were also increased.

On 17 January the Mothers for Peace met Cyrus Vance, the UN special envoy who had visited Vukovar and negotiated the ceasefire that ended the war in Croatia in January. Mrs Krcmar said: 'I told Mr Vance that they are doing everything to them (the prisoners) but gassing them. He (Mr Vance) touched me on the hand and said, 'I know what you mean,' but never did anything about it.'

Spokesmen for Mr Vance and Sir David say they acted appropriately by passing on the allegations to the United Nations. UN officials also say that the Yugoslav conflict has produced so many allegations of torture and summary execution that the organisation has been unable to cope with them.

Despite repeated attempts, the Mothers for Peace group failed to secure an appointment with Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary-General, and posted him documents alleging widespread Serbian brutality against captured civilians.

The documents include lists of prisons, concentration camps and forced labour camps run by the military and irregular forces, as well as details of 'private camps' including basements and warehouses, where contact with the International Committee of the Red Cross is avoided.

Some of the most gripping testimony was provided in a five-page report on concentration camps written by Lav Bosanac, 44, a civil engineer taken prisoner in Vukovar, and Mladen Loncar, a 31-year-old specialist in neurological psychiatry.

Both were arrested as civilians and kept in a variety of concentration camps. Mr Bosanac, who was kept at four camps, testified that at Stajicevo concentration camp Serbian soldiers 'beat all wounded and sick persons, old people, even children'.

For days the beatings went on, he said. 'Ivan Kunac was the victim of a particularly savage beating. On the second day he was found covered in vomit . . .' He died the following day after being refused medical treatment. Hungry, freezing and savagely beaten, the prisoners were forced to sing the Yugoslav national anthem, the document stated, 'but the worst was the fate of those selected for systematic killing'. The prisoners were allegedly punched and kicked and hit with truncheons until they lost consciousness.

Dr Loncar, who was held at Begejci concentration camp, was exchanged on 10 December. He testified about being kept with 527 others, among them 25 to 30 women, in a deserted farm surrounded by barbed wire. He said in his statement: 'The hallmark of living in the camp was regular and daily and systematic ill-treatment of prisoners' by drunken, violent soldiers.

'There were many old people in the camp,' he said, adding that many suffered from chronic heart and lung disease. Wounded prisoners were not treated and were regularly beaten day after day, according to Dr Loncar's written testimony. There were allegedly dozens of prisoners with broken ribs in the camp and practically all had bruises from frequent beatings.

'One prisoner more than 60 years old (a heart disease patient) was beaten to death in the camp . . . (and) even arrested medical doctors were beaten.' The Red Cross inspected the camp but if prisoners complained 'they were severely punished after the ICRC had left the camp'.

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