While war-crime victims recall women as carrying out some of the vilest deeds in the whole of the Bosnian war, the courts seem curiously relucant to act.
By Merima Husejnovic
Among the most infamous women war criminals from the Bosnian war is Monika Simonovic, from Brcko.
According to various witnesses, she was the girlfriend of Goran Jelisic “Adolf”, whom the Hague Tribunal jailed for 40 years in 2001 for crimes carried out in the “Luka” camp where, according to the verdict, he held “a position of authority”.
Her brother, Konstantin, was the camp commander.
Although to many people she looked like a little girl, witnesses say that in 1992 Simonovic took part in some of the worst atrocities of the war in the Luka camp.
“She looked like a little girl but all she had was a female name. She wasn’t a woman, she was a monster,” Dzafer Deronjic, a former prisoner from Luka camp, said.
“There are few people like her. Whether she was naturally gifted, instructed, or just did these things without knowing…” he tailed off.
Amir Didic also remembers Monika Simonovic. At the start of the Jelisic trial in The Hague, in 1999, he said she and Jelisic together beat him several times a day in Luka camp.
“They used to swear at us and tell us we should all be killed,” he said at the trial. “She kept saying: ‘Why don’t you kill him? Why are you arguing with him?’, while Jelisic was all the time beating me with a bat and fire hose.”
Dzafer Deronjic told BIRN – Justice Report that Simonovic searched prisoners almost every day and “stole everything that could be taken”, adding that she “could do whatever she wanted.
“I heard that she smashed a bottle and used it to rip up one of the prisoners. I saw the ripped-up man but I did not see the moment when she did this,” Deronjic added.
He did not know where she was today. Nor does anybody, it appears. Fadil Redzic, head of the Association of Prisoners of Brcko District, believes she fled the town when her brother, Konstantin, was arrested, and has not returned.
Konstantin Simonovic “Kole”, the former commander at Luka, pleaded guilty in 2005 and was sentenced to six years’ prison by the Basic Court in Brcko.
In spite of the weight of testimony against her, the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina is not even investigating Monika Simonovic, the spokesman, Boris Grubesic, said.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office of Brcko District, meanwhile, says it “cannot give out information about specific investigations”.
Now working as a judge:
Bosnian war victims from the town of Visegrad, eastern Bosnia, are up in arms about another case, which they describe as shocking.
Dragana Djeric Cerovic has not fled the country. On the contrary, the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina this February appointed her a judge in the Municipal Court in Velika Kladusa, in spite of claims that she personally executed Bosniak detainees in Visegrad in the war.
Bakira Hasecic, president of the Association of Women Victims of War, from Visegrad, said Cerovic had boasted to her of her bloodthirsty exploits.
“She took out a machine gun to shoot Bosniaks because her father had died, and told me: ‘You’ll remember who the Serbs are’”, she said. “I cannot wait to see her face to face.”
Hasecic claims that Judge Djeric Cerovic is responsible for the disappearance of four of her neighbours, including two children, about which the investigative authorities are also informed.
Djeric Cerovic told BIRN-Justice Report that she was aware of the claims made about her past but refused to comment further. “You should contact the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council – this is my comment,” she said.
Last September, the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel dismissed claims that Djeric Cerovic had submitted “false, incomplete or misleading information” when she applied for a judge’s post. But it admitted that it had not carried out a criminal investigation, saying this was not in its competence.
Ismet Dizdarevic says gender differences and myths about the “fairer sex” should never be an obstacle or a mitigating circumstance in the pursuit of war crimes. “Justice must not differentiate between women and men,” he said. In some cases, a woman is just another person who has committed a crime.”