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Camp Trial Halted By Prcac Late Arrival
Miroslav Kvocka and Mladjo Radic, two of the four Bosnian Serbs standing trial for crimes commited at the Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje camps, completed their testimony last week. Prosecutor Brenda Hollis immediately took the opportunity to request an adjournement in proceedings pending a decision on Dragoljub Prcac, a fifth man accused of crimes at Omarska, arrested after the trial of Kvocka and his co-defendants had begun. (See This Issue: Fifth Omarska Camp Suspect Captured).
Kvocka's testimony lasted almost four days. He is accused of being a commander and subsequently a deputy commander at the Omarska camp.
When asked by his defence counsel if he "as a person and policeman" did everything he could, Kvocka replied, "I sincerely think that I have personally done everything, maybe more than it was appropriate to do, given the situation I was in." Kvocka claims he was an "ordinary policeman" at the camp charged with overseeing the "physical security of objects and people detained in it". He disputes that he had any authority over the camp guards, even less so over the interrogators or soldiers.
Mladjo Radic, also known as "Krkan", followed Kvocka into the witness box. In his short testimony, Radic denied he was a guard shift commander at Omarska and that he raped and sexually abused one of the detainees on several occasions. That detainee has already testified about her ordeal during the trial of Dusko Tadic.
Like Kvocka, Radic testified that he occasionally heard or saw that detainees were "incorrectly treated" at the camp and that some were "physically abused".
Radic's defence counsel, Toma Fila from Belgrade, then asked how the accused felt about being "part of the apparatus", which exposed detainees to such inhuman treatment. Radic replied, "I feel shame about everything that happened, I feel shame about the people who did it - if they did it - and I am really sorry that these people suffered such horrors - if they are true."
Just what the defence counsel hoped to achieve by calling their clients to the witness box at the very beginning of the trial remains unclear. Fila told Tribunal Update that Radic's and Kvocka's defence counsels did not wish to contest charges in the indictment relating to general conditions at the camp - charges already proven during the Tadic trial. It would appear the defence hoped to demonstrate a degree of "cooperativeness", which could be taken into account as mitigating circumstances for the accused.
Prosecutor Grant Niemann, however, said in his opening statement that the defendants' testimony does not release him from the "burden of proving each and every element of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt."
The interruption in proceedings over the Prcac case has delayed the start of the prosecution's presentation of evidence. Three prosecution witnesses are already in The Hague waiting to testify.
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