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DATE=3/18/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=WAR CRIMES TRIAL (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-260323 BYLINE=LAUREN COMITEAU DATELINE=THE HAGUE CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal opens a major trial on Monday of three Bosnian Serbs charged with the rape, torture or enslavement of Muslim women in the southeastern Bosnian town of Foca eight years ago. Lauren Comiteau reports from The Hague, where prosecutors will try to show that systematic sexual abuse was part of the Serbian war campaign against Bosnian Muslims. TEXT: The Foca indictments lay out in clinical detail what prosecutors claim is a horrifying chapter in the Bosnian war. They say girls as young as 12 were held prisoner for up to eight months by paramilitary troops and soldiers, gang-raped nightly, and tortured. Prosecutors say after Serbs overran the town of Foca, they separated the women from the men and began their brutal regime of torture and rape. Legal advisor Patricia Sellers says it is a story of what can happen to women during war. /// Sellers Act /// War is composed of acts of destruction and those acts of destruction include sexual violence, torture and enslavement. Foca is important because it's probably more typical of war than we are ready to admit. /// End Act /// War crimes prosecutors say that rape was so systematic in the Bosnian conflict that it must be treated as a serious war crime. The Foca indictments -- the first to deal specifically with sexual assaults -- broke new legal ground when they were presented four years ago. Deputy Prosecutor Graham Blewitt says the trial could make legal history. /// Blewitt Act /// Right from the outset of our investigations, we were determined to incorporate the sexual assault aspects -- all the rapes, the allegations that rape was being used as a weapon of war, as a means to terrorize the local population. /// End Act /// The three defendants are paramilitary leaders Zoran Vukovic and Radomir Kovac, and Dragoljub Kunarac, said to be a commander of a special unit in the Bosnian Serb army. Prosecutors say the men chose young women from detention centers and took them to houses or hotels where they raped them or let others do it. One 12- year-old girl was raped in a primary school classroom. In another case, two of the defendants are accused of raping the same woman one night, telling her they wanted to make sure she would give birth to a Serbian baby. Dragoljub Kunarac is also charged with keeping as a slave a young girl who was already seven months pregnant. His lawyers, however, insist that he was not even at the scene of the crimes. They also say there were no detention facilities for Muslim women at Foca, just shelters to protect them from the war. (signed) Neb/lc/dw/JP 18-Mar-2000 12:28 PM EDT (18-Mar-2000 1728 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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