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Former Prisoners, Refugees Tell of Suffering in Bosnia’s War With AM-Yugoslavia Rdp, Bjt

August 17, 1992

--- EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer recently interviewed f (AP) _ -

EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer recently interviewed former prisoners of war and refugees fleeing Bosnia.

--- By ROLAND PRINZ Associated Press Writer

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) - Whether held as prisoners of war or terrorized into fleeing their homes, escapees from the war in Bosnia tell stories of humiliation and cruelty - all of them laced with fear.

Many refugees describe of being driven from their homes, a practice known as ″ethnic cleansing″ - a euphemism for forced population transfers.

″Yes, they did force us to leave,″ said a Muslim woman, one of 260 refugees who found temporary haven in U.N.-controlled territory in Croatia over the weekend.

The refugees were being sheltered in a bombed-out factory heaped with rubble and garbage. Most were Muslims from the town of Bosanska Dubica near the Croatian border.

Once, Bosanska Dubica’s population was about 20 percent Muslim. That is changing.

″They were shooting at us when we were sitting in the garden. ... We could no longer let our children walk in the streets and there was not enough food for us,″ said the Muslim woman, who was in her 40s, clad in a blue sweater and skirt.

She refused to give her name, saying she was afraid to do so.

The refugees told of their homes being rocketed and Serbian policemen robbing and intimidating them. Some said their electricity and phone lines were cut.

″We will all commit suicide if we have to go back to Bosanska Dubica,″ said one old man, tall with short-cropped hair, who also refused to give his name.

The U.N. Human Rights Commission last week condemned ″ethnic cleansing″ and said all sides are engaging in it in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Both sides have been accused of other atrocities in Bosnia’s nearly five- month war, including brutal treatment in prisons and arbitrary killings.

The proliferation of accounts by refugees and freed prisoners are lending credence to those accusations.

The refugees from Bosanska Dubica, a town of about 31,000 people, had tried to follow the trail of other Bosnians who had gotten got through to Croatia in recent days.

But Croatian authorities - already swamped with refugees - blocked them late Saturday. Eventually they were given shelter by Nepalese U.N. peacekeepers.

Their convoy was organized by a Bosnian Serb, Branko Kukic, chairman of the local Bosnian Serb Red Cross in Bosanska Dubica.

Kukic claimed the refugees left ″because of the economic crisis,″ but the refugees said they had no choice but to flee.

They said they were intimidated into signing documents saying they left everything behind voluntarily - and were moving permanently.

Told that the refugees said they had to leave everything behind - including their houses, cars, valuables and the keys to their houses - Kukic said: ″They may have given keys to some friends, maybe to Serb friends, who are their best friends anyway.″

Freed Bosnian and Croatian prisoners of war, meanwhile, accuse their Serb captors of beatings, psychological torture and humilitation. A prisoner exchange Friday brought freedom to about 1,100 people, including roughly 400 Serbs.

Vinko Popovic, a 68-year-old Muslim civilian captured in Mostar in western Herzegovina, said he was mistreated in a hospital where he was taken for treatment of stomach wounds.

As he was interviewed, about 10 other men, most of them with heads shaven but appearing in good physical condition, shouted at a reporter, trying to tell their experiences in the Morinj prison camp in Boka Kotorska in Montenegro.

Scores of Muslims, including Popovic, were taken to the camp from Mostar. They were captured April 4 as they were celebrating Bajram, a holiday ending the Ramadan fast.

They said they were sometimes denied water, which was often contaminated. Their captors beat them regularly, with sand-filled socks to avoid marks on their skins, rubber truncheons and shovel handles, they said.

The bulk of Croat prisoners of war were held in Sremska Mitrovica, about 40 miles northwest of Belgrade. They too complained of beatings, inhumane prison conditions and insufficient food.

They did not report torture and did not look underfed. None of them displayed bruises. Still, they insisted the conditions had been brutal.

″Sometimes they gave us seven loaves of bread for 60 people,″ said Josip Kis, a freed prisoner with an ethnic Hungarian father and a Russian mother. ″The hungry prisoners were fighting for a chunk while guards stood by laughing.″

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