Bosnia-Herzegovina - Tortures of Lawless Wars
Torture - Testimony
"I'm a Catholic. It was strange to be imprisoned in a church. They beat us, and we ate only three times."
By Nancy L. Torner, 01.02.99, for People on War
Marinko Yoyo woke up one morning in September 1993 a respected school principal and member of a humanitarian activities committee. By that evening he had been arrested at his home in Jablanica, southern Bosnia-Herzegovina, and imprisoned in a fruit cellar, along with a dozen other upstanding members of the community.
" That first night a couple of soldiers visited us, " Yoyo says. " The soldiers insulted us, asked all sorts of meaningless questions, and the first thing they took from us was everything worth money. They took my tennis shoes off, took my wedding ring off. That's when we realised where we were and what was going to happen to us. The first five days we were harassed and molested all the time and beaten up and sworn at. "
Then things got worse. They were moved to a church closer to Mostar.
The soft-spoken man pauses, places his elbows on his knees, clasps his hands and says: " I'm a Catholic. It was strange to be imprisoned in a church. They beat us, and we ate only three times. They forced us to touch the live end of electric cables. We were hit with religious statues and crosses. They pulled our teeth out with pliers. "
The captives also were forced to wear religious robes with numbers painted on the back. When their numbers were called, they had to fight each other. On one occasion Yoyo was pitted against a friend.
" Now I can laugh about it. In a way he helped me. " Throwing a fake jab to his own left eye Yoyo says: " He hit me so hard that I was bleeding, and I didn't have to fight again in the ring because I w as already wounded. "
Eventually the group was moved closer to home, to a museum already jammed with some 400 civilians, including about 75 children. Some children were born there. And because there wasn't much food, some people died there.
" The museum was opened by Tito in 1978 to remind people of the horrific things that happened during the second World War, " Yoyo says. " The good thing is that the guards were some of my former students. They called my family and said that I was alive. "
Yoyo and the others were released in March 1994, with the signing of the Washington agreement. Since then he has worked with a Hague tribunal investigator, but no one has been arrested yet.
" All those Geneva Conventions and laws of war don't work, " Yoyo says. " Because I worked in a humanitarian field, it was especially hard for me to see all this happening. "
Yoyo says some people are protected more than others. " People with money could buy their way out of detention. They made me write a letter to my wife, Angelica, instructing her to give them all the money and gold she had, " he says. But it wasn't enough to buy his release.
Yoyo is now a refugee in Mostar, and someone else is living in his home. He sees his former neighbours sometimes, but they don't say hello. All they know is that he was arrested, so he must be guilty of something, Yoyo says.
Asked whether he wants to go back home, Yoyo straightens in his chair and says in a steady voice: " Although Jablanica is my city, that's where I'm from and everybody knows me, my answer is no. "
People on War is a worldwide project that intends to increase awareness around the world of the rules that already exist for people's protection in wartime and to encourage discussion of humanitarian law in the context of modern-day conflict. It has been designed to involve those who have experience of war.