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Trial begins for Serbs charged with systematic rapes in Bosnia
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CNN) -- Three Serbs charged with running a notorious prison camp for women during the 1992-95 Bosnian war went on trial on multiple rape charges Monday before an international war crimes tribunal.
Dragoljub Kunarac, the commander of a Bosnian Serb army unit, and two subordinates -- Zoran Vukovic and Radomir Kovac -- face charges dating from 1992, in the early days of the Bosnian war. The case is the first time an international court will hear testimony regarding systematic rape of civilians as a crime against humanity.
"The charges we have brought in this case are so extensive, and the magnitude is so great, that it's very hard for any responsible person to believe in any way that this should be hushed up," said Dirk Ryneveld, a prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Identities of accusers guarded
Prosecution evidence is graphically explicit: At least 10 accusers -- their identities protected by numerical designations -- will appear before the men to testify about the rapes at the prison camp at Foca, southeast of Sarajevo.
Paul Risley, a spokesman for the tribunal's prosecution staff, said the women will testify in detail about how often the defendants raped and sexually assaulted them.
In April 1992, the town of Foca fell to Bosnian Serb forces. The town's Muslim and Croat residents were arrested and the men and women separated. Then, countless women were gang-raped, forced into sexual slavery and forced to bear the children of Serb captors, the indictment says. Girls as young as 12 were sexually abused, the prosecution says.
"Many women suffered permanent gynecological harm due to the sexual assaults," prosecutors said in court papers. "At least one woman can no longer have children. All the women who were sexually assaulted suffered psychological and emotional harm; some remain traumatized."
Life prison terms possible
All three men have pleaded innocent. Defense attorneys say they will deny the existence of detention centers for civilian women and attempt to show that there was no planned, systematic wartime policy that used rape to terrorize the enemy. They will argue that their accusers agreed to sexual intercourse.
If convicted, the men could face life in prison -- the maximum sentence the tribunal can hand down. The longest sentence the court has handed down so far has been 45 years, in the case of a Croat general accused of leading an April 1993 rampage that left more than 100 men, women and children dead in the Bosnian village of Ahmici.
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International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
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