BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — A Bosnian Serb woman suspected of such brutal crimes against non-Serbs during the 1990s that her victims nicknamed her the “Female Monster” has been detained, police and local media reported Wednesday.
It was a rare arrest in that relatively few women have been linked to the atrocities of that era.
Halid Emkic, the spokesman for the police in the northern Bosnian town of Brcko, told The Associated Press that the woman’s initials were M.I. But Bosnian media identified the suspect as Monika Ilic (aka: Monika Simonovic), a native of Brcko, whose once-childlike appearance is alleged to have hid a cruel disposition.
Ilic was reportedly 18 when she married Goran Jelisic, a convicted murderer and concentration camp torturer. The two allegedly committed crimes against imprisoned non-Serbs in Brcko at the beginning of the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
Jelisic, who called himself the “Serb Adolf” after Adolf Hitler, was sentenced in 2001 to 40 years in jail by the U.N. war crimes tribunal. But Ilic evaded justice for years, apparently living in Serbia under a false name for a time.
Following an international warrant, police tracked her down Tuesday in Prijedor, Bosnia, where her current boyfriend, Nebojsa Stojanov, lives. Stojanov has told the Banja Luka magazine “Reporter” that his girlfriend was not married to Jelisic but was in fact one of his victims.
Ilic is expected to face investigators on Wednesday and to have a lawyer appointed for her.
She joins just a handful of women who have been accused of or stood trial for war crimes in Bosnia.
The most prominent one — and the only former resident of the famous Sheveningen detention unit attached to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague — is a former member of the wartime Bosnian Serb leadership, Biljana Plavsic.
As one of the creators of the Serb ministate in Bosnia during the 1992-95 war, she was sentenced by the tribunal in 2003 of persecution, a crime against humanity, as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign to drive Bosniaks and Croats out of Serb-controlled areas of Bosnia.
Plavsic was released after serving two-thirds of her 11-year sentence and settled in Belgrade.
Azra Basic, a soldier of the Bosnian Croat forces, emigrated to the U.S. after the war and was detained in Kentucky in March at the request of Bosnian authorities. She is accused of killing a prisoner and torturing others by forcing them to drink human blood and gasoline and having them kneel on broken glass.
A U.S. court is still considering whether there is enough evidence against her to justify an extradiction.
A few years ago, Ilic’s brother, Konstantin Simonovic, was sentenced to six years for crimes committed as commander of the notorious camp “Luka” where both Ilic and Jelisic are alleged to have operated.
Several witnesses told Bosnian media Ilic looked like a little girl but was notoriously cruel.
Former Luka camp prisoner Amir Mujic alleged in a video statement shown by the daily Dnevni Avaz web portal that he was in the room when Ilic took a broken beer bottle and ripped an inmate’s stomach open.
Witnesses who testified against Jelisic in front of U.N. judges at the Hague tribunal mentioned Ilic as Jelisic’s girlfriend or partner and said the two jointly beat them with fire hoses and batons in the camp. One witness alleged that Ilic tried to persuade Jelisic to kill him during a beating.
Bosnia’s 1992-95 war erupted when Bosnia’s Christian Orthodox Serbs rebelled against the decision of the country’s majority Muslim Bosniaks and Roman Catholic Croats to secede from Yugoslavia. Backed by neighboring Serbia, the Bosnian Serbs laid a 3 1/2-year-long siege to the capital, Sarajevo, and expelled or killed almost all non-Serbs from nearly 70 percent of the country’s territory.
Over 100,000 people were killed during the conflict and half of the population was turned into refugees. The war ended with a U.S. brokered peace agreement in 1995.
Although Jelisic was charged by U.N. prosecutors with genocide, judges dismissed that charge but convicted him of crimes against humanity after concluding he simply killed out of personal pleasure.
A sequence of photographs shows murders of Bosniak civilians by local Serb police officer Goran Jelisic. Jelisic’s former girlfriend, Monika Simonovic-Ilic, dubbed “female monster,” was apprehended yesterday. Other photographs show mass graves of more than 3,000 Bosniak civilians — women, children, and unarmed men — slaughtered by Serbs, in and around Brcko during the 1992 Bosnian genocide.
Photo evidence courtesy: The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at the Hague (ICTY).