- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2000

THE HAGUE, Netherlands As long as man has waged war, rape has been an outrageous weapon in his arsenal.

In March, a Yugoslav tribunal staged a rape trial the first time an international court tackled sexual enslavement. Bosnian Serbs Radomir Kovac, Dragoljub Kunarac and Zoran Vukovic were charged with rape, torture, enslavement and outrages upon personal dignity in the Foca case, named after the city where the crimes reportedly took place.

According to the indictment, the defendants operated "quasi-brothels" or "rape factories" in a school, a sports hall and a construction workers' barracks in Foca, southeast of Sarajevo, in the summer of 1992.

Nightly, women and girls, some as young as 12 years old, reportedly were forced to have sexual relations with soldiers and paramilitary fighters. They were gang-raped, tortured and often forced to give birth, Prosecutor Dirk Ryneveld wrote in his pretrial brief.

"Many of them suffered permanent gynecological harm due to the sexual assaults. At least one woman can no longer have children," the indictment said.

Rape is as old as war itself. Since the battles of ancient Greece, commanders have given soldiers license to rape women, who were seen as a spoil of war.

But what distinguished the Bosnian war was that women were prime targets in "ethnic cleansing" campaigns because of their role in propagating identity.

Such attacks a soldier of one ethnicity raping a woman of another reportedly led to thousands of forced pregnancies and children.

Since medieval times, attempts have been made to curb the practice of wartime rape, at least on paper. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Kings Richard II and Henry V of England declared rape a capital offense. The Lieber Instructions outlawed rape by Union soldiers during the Civil War.

But even when rape was outlawed, it was low on the list of priorities. It was not prosecuted at the 1945-46 Nuremberg trial of Nazi officials. At the Tokyo trial of Japanese leaders, rape was not recognized as a full-fledged war crime.

"That's part of the reaction of patriarchal society," said Patricia Viseur Sellers, the tribunal's rape expert. "Men are tortured and that's important. Women are raped and that's not important."

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