Grozdana Ćećez

…He trampled on my pride and I will never be able to be the woman that I was.

Grozdana Ćećez, a Bosnian Serb woman, speaking about how she felt after ICTY convict Hazim Delić raped her in the Čelebići prison camp near Konjic in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She testified on 17 and 18 March 1997 in the case against Zdravko Mucić, Hazim Delić, Esad Landžo, and Zejnil Delalić.

Read her story and testimony

In 1992, when war broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Grozdana Ćećez, a 43 year-old Serb wife, mother and storeowner, was living in Donje Selo, a village with a majority Serb population about two kilometres from the city of Konjic, located in the center of the country. She and her husband Lazar Ćećez, a former police officer, had a son, Duško, and a daughter, who had left for Serbia in April 1992.
“I didn’t realize that this would be happening to me, this at the end of the 20th century, that someone would allow themselves to do this.” Then Delić took the rest of her clothes off, turned her on her back and raped her again.

On 20 May 1992, Grozdana Ćećez was digging in her garden when she saw a number of cars, including two police cars, passing by a Serbian cemetery. Mrs. Ćećez woke her husband up, and he fled behind the house. Her son also fled. Mrs. Ćećez said that she stayed behind because she did not expect anything bad to happen. When she saw people coming out of a car wearing camouflage uniforms, she too fled to the nearby woods.

For the next seven days, Grozdana Ćećez would hide in a cave and in her brother-in-law's cellar. As she fled from place to place, she saw many Serb houses on fire, including her own. On 27 May 1992, Mrs. Ćećez was captured and taken to the Čelebići prison camp.

When she first arrived at the camp, Mrs. Ćećez was taken to a very small room where she saw a man with a crutch, who had one of his legs bandaged. The man, who Mrs. Ćećez identified as ICTY accused Hazim Delić, the camp's deputy commander, asked about the whereabouts of her husband, Lazar. When she said that she did not know, Delić began slapping her. He and two others led Mrs. Ćećez to another room where there were a number of beds. Hazim Delić told her to take her clothes off.

Mrs. Ćećez said she did not understand what he wanted, and thought that Hazim Delić was going to beat her. He took off some of her clothes, turned her on her chest and raped her, with the two other men present. “I didn’t realise that this would be happening to me, this at the end of the 20th century, that someone would allow themselves to do this.” Then Delić took the rest of her clothes off, turned her on her back and raped her again.

“He trampled on my pride,” said Mrs. Ćećez, “and I will never be able to be the woman that I was.” While Mrs. Ćećez was crying and saying to herself “My God, what have I come to live through,” Hazim Delić said to her that she would not be there if it had not been for her husband, Lazar.

About an hour after Hazim Delić raped her and left the room, ICTY convict Zdravko Mucić who was the commander of the Čelebići camp, and Rale Mušinović, whose cousin was her husband’s former commander in the police, came to see her in the room. Mucić asked where her husband was and asked whether anyone had touched her. Mrs. Ćećez did not dare tell the truth because Hazim Delić had told her not to tell anybody. But Mrs. Ćećez said that they could see that she had been raped. She said that if Mušinović noticed that she did not have a ring on her finger (she had given it to her daughter), then he would surely have noticed a big trace of sperm left on the bed.

“Rale, kill me. Do not let me stay here alone.” She told him what had happened and cried a lot. He said that it would not happen again. He was wrong.

On her third night in the Čelebići camp, Mrs. Ćećez was moved to another building. At around 11pm, a young man came in and told her to take her clothes off. He was in a uniform, and had a knife and rifle next to him. She tried to talk to him saying, “What do you want? I am an old woman.” He told her to just take her clothes off, and then he raped her. Later another young man came in and Mrs. Ćećez started to cry. He told her to undress and then he too raped her.

That same night a third young man came in. Mrs. Ćećez asked whether she knew him from somewhere. “You may have gone to summer camp with my son,” she said. They talked for a while, and then he raped her. After he was done, he said, “Do you see how a Turkish cock can fuck?” Before leaving, he told her not to tell anyone. Then a fourth man came in and raped her, but because by then the candle had gone out, she could not see him.

Mrs. Ćećez could not understand what all these young men were doing, because she was old enough to have been their mother. She also said it was difficult for her because, as she said, “I was a woman who only lived for one man and I was his all my life, and I think that I was just getting separated from my body at this time.” She wondered how she could go back to her husband and children. The next day she spoke with Rale Mušinović and begged: “Rale, kill me. Do not let me stay here alone.” She told him what had happened and cried a lot. He said that it would not happen again. He was wrong.

Mrs. Ćećez remained in that building for the rest of her time in the Čelebići camp, sleeping in a room with five to seven other women. They had no place to wash, and no hot water. They had a blue plastic jug that they would wash their underwear in and in which they urinated at night, as they did not dare go out. Throughout the three and a half months she was there, they were given two bars of soap and one and a half cups of detergent to share amongst five to seven of them. However, Mrs. Ćećez said that food was what they lacked the most. For 42 days, they were only given a piece of bread. Then they were given soup and some beans that had not been boiled properly. Later the camp authorities allowed food to be brought in, but her sister who brought it did not always succeed in getting it to her. Mrs. Ćećez lost 34 kilos, and felt very sick.

One night in July, Mrs. Ćećez was taken outside the camp. When guards came for her, she tried to protest that she could not go anywhere because she had her period. Later Hazim Delić stormed in, cursed her mother, grabbed her and forced her into a car with one of the camp guards. Mrs. Ćećez was terrified that they were going to kill her, or put her in a manhole, since there were stories in the camp about a manhole they put men in.

The car drove in front of a barracks where there were three or four soldiers. A civilian, who she later found out was named Nurko Tabak, approached Mrs. Ćećez and led her into a hangar, at the end of which was a bed. She tried to protest that she had her period. She talked about how so many of her family members had been killed—Milijan, Velimir, Željko, Pero, Mirko and Vlado Ćećez, plus other close relations in the Ninković and Kuljanin families—naming them all. All Tabak said was: “We won’t talk about that. Let’s talk about sex.” He threw her over and raped her. He smelled of brandy. That was the last time she was raped.

Because of what she suffered at the camp, Mrs. Ćećez said: “[p]sychologically and physically I was completely worn out. They kill you psychologically.” On one occasion, Mrs. Ćećez also planned on committing suicide. She had a metal pin and was going to put it in an electrical socket in the bathroom. A fellow detainee who had also been raped, took her by the shoulders and stopped her.

On 31 August 1992, Mrs. Ćećez was released. For the three months that she was in the camp, Mrs. Ćećez did not know what had happened to her husband and her son. She learned that her son had left for Serb-held territory. On 5 December 1992, she identified her dead husband’s mutilated body.

Grozdana Ćećez testified on 17 and 18 March 1997 in the case against Zdravko Mucić, Hazim Delić, Esad Landžo, and Zejnil Delalić. The Tribunal convicted Hazim Delić, the camp's deputy commander and later commander, and sentenced him to 18 years’ imprisonment for raping Grozdana Ćećez and other crimes. The judgement was a landmark in international law because it was the first time a court found rape to be a form of torture and found an accused guilty of it.

The Tribunal also convicted Zdravko Mucić, the camp's commander and sentenced him to 9 years’ imprisonment for crimes committed in the Čelebići camp by his subordinates, including camp guard Esad Landžo, who was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. Bosnian Army commander Zejnil Delalić was acquitted because the court found that he did not have command and control over the Čelebići camp and the guards who worked there.

> Read Grozdana Ćećez’s full testimony

 

<  Back