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 on Wednesday.
It was a rare arrest in that relatively few women have been linked to the atrocities of that era.
Halid Emkic, a police spokesman in the northern town of Brcko, said that the woman’s initials were M.I., but Bosnian media identified the suspect as Monika Ilic, a native of Brcko, whose once-childlike appearance is alleged to have hidden 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 1992-1995 Bosnian War.
Jelisic, who called himself the “Serb Adolf” after Adolf Hitler, was sentenced in 2001 to 40 years in jail by a UN 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 on 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 was 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 Sheveningen detention unit attached to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague — is a former member of the Bosnian Serb leadership, Biljana Plavsic.
As one of the creators of the Serb mini-state in Bosnia during the war, she was sentenced by the tribunal in 2003 of persecution, a crime against humanity, as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign to drive Bosnians and Croats out of Serb-controlled areas of Bosnia.
Plavsic was released after serving two-thirds of her 11-year sentence and she settled in Belgrade.
Azra Basic, a soldier with the Bosnian Croat forces, emigrated to the US 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 US court is still considering whether there is enough evidence against her to justify an extradition.
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 that she was notoriously cruel.
Former Luka camp prisoner Amir Mujic alleged in a video statement shown by the 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 UN judges at the tribunal mentioned Ilic as Jelisic’s girlfriend or partner, saying the two jointly beat them with fire hoses and batons. One witness alleged that Ilic tried to persuade Jelisic to kill him during a beating.