Bosnian War Prisoners Unable to Commemorate Detention Camp Closure
On the 28th anniversary of the closure of the Dretelj detention camp on Tuesday, former detainees recalled the desperate conditions at the wartime facility near Capljina but were unable to hold a commemoration at the site.
Prisoners at the camp, a former Yugoslav People's Army fuel terminal and barracks near the village of Dretelj, were tortured, mistreated and sexually abused, giving it the reputation of being one of the cruellest detention sites of the Bosnian war.
After the war, the Dretelj site was privatised and came under the ownership of Hercegovacka Banka, a bank that was allegedly used as a money-laundering vehicle. The bank went into liquidation in 2012 and the site remains shut, preventing former detainees from holding a memorial event.
"Dretelj is among the worst camps in which I was held, because we watched people die, starve and suffer," said Amer Djulic, who was taken to the camp in August 1993 at the age of 17, and spent more than 50 days there as a prisoner.
Djulic said that prisoners were deprived of food, and that some meals were nothing but plain hot water.
He recalled that as well as the barrack rooms in which the detainees were held, there was also an isolation cell, six by four metres in size, where up to 70 prisoners were held and tortured.
Minors and elderly people were hidden by the camp guards when monitors from the Red Cross visited, he added.
In the spring and summer of 1992, the Dretelj barracks were used by Bosnian Croat forces as a detention centre for Serb prisoners from the Herzegovina region.
A year later, after conflict erupted between Bosniaks and Croats in the area, Dretelj became a detention camp for Bosniak prisoners under the command of Bosnian Croat forces.