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Saturday, January 9, 1999 Published at 21:49 GMT


World: Europe

Gagovic's role in a dark history

Foca: 'a closed, dark place' after Serb forces moved in

Dragan Gagovic was the chief of police in the town of Foca, south east of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, when it was "ethnically cleansed" in the Bosnian civil war. He had been a department commander and was promoted when Serb forces took the town in April 1992.

He was indicted for crimes against humanity, including rape, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and violations of the laws or customs of war.

He was in charge of dozens of Muslim women civilians detained after Serb forces entered Foca. His indictment, with eight others, is the first in history in which persons were indicted for rape as a war crime.


[ image: Muslim women were subjected to horrors in captivity]
Muslim women were subjected to horrors in captivity
The civilians were held in brutal, inhumane conditions at the Partizan Sports Hall, close to the police headquarters in Foca. The Tribunal says the women were systematically beaten, mentally tortured and sexually assaulted by Serb troops in the full knowledge of Dragan Gagovic while they were under guard by his officers.

The indictment says in July 1992 Gagovic himself raped a women detainee at gunpoint when she reported sexual assaults by the soldiers.

Gagovic's death is the second time since the end of the war that a Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect has been killed during an arrest bid. In July 1997, another former police chief, Simo Drljaca, was shot dead when he fired on British peacekeeping troops trying to arrest him near the north-western town of Prijedor.

Haven for war criminal suspects

Last summer, the international group Human Rights Watch issued a report about Foca, describing it as a "closed, dark place" and saying that six indicted war criminals, including Gagovic, lived there more or less openly. Gagovic is said to have owned a bar frequented other indicted war criminals.

According to a census before the war Muslims outnumbered Bosnian 52% to 45%. International monitors in the region estimate that the current population is approximately 24,000 with fewer than 100 non-Serbs left in the municipality.

All traces of the existence of 14 mosques in the area, including some from the 15th and 16th Century have also been removed.

Radovan Karadzic, the wartime Bosnian Serb leader who heads the tribunal's list of those indicted for war crimes, was reported to have been in hiding near Foca for a month recently. He was said to have moved from the nearby town of Visegrad to avoid capture after Washington offered a large reward for any information that might lead to the arrest of the most wanted war crimes suspects.



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Human Rights Watch: Foca

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