Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Camp Trials Set to Start

By Denis Dzidic in Sarajevo (TU No 479, 1-Dec-06)
The trial was due to start this week, but it was postponed due to the illness of one of the prosecutors.

Zeljko Mejakic, Momcilo Gruban, Dusan Fustar and Dusko Knezevic have been charged with crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the municipality of Prijedor, northwestern Bosnia at the beginning of the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

According to the indictment, between May and August 1992 more than 7,000 non-Serb civilians from the Prijedor area were detained in the Omarska, Trnopolje and Keraterm camps, where they were confined in inhumane conditions, murdered, beaten, sexually assaulted and psychologically abused.

It is alleged that Zeljko Mejakic was the commander of the Omarska camp at that time, while Momcilo Gruban and Dusan Fustar were guard shift commanders in Omarska and Keraterm respectively.

According to the indictment, the fourth accused, Dusko Knezevic, didn’t have any official title, but entered Omarska and Keraterm whenever he liked, where he “committed murders and beatings of camp inmates”, participated in rapes and other forms of sexual abuse.

These four men were originally indicted by the Hague tribunal, but their case was referred to the Bosnian War Crimes Chambers in April this year, in accordance with the tribunal’s exit strategy. Since the tribunal has to wind up by the 2010, only the highest-ranking suspects can be tried at the tribunal, while lower level cases are referred to local courts in the countries of former Yugoslavia.

Mejakic and others were transferred to Sarajevo in May, and two months later, they pleaded not guilty to all charges against them.

The Hague tribunal has already tried and convicted several other indictees accused of crimes committed in Omarska and established that murder, torture and persecution were committed in this camp.

In November 2001, the tribunal judges sentenced Miroslav Kvocka to seven years in prison; while Milojica Kos, Mlađo Radić, Zoran Žigić and Dragoljub Prcać were handed to six-, 20-, 25- and five-year terms respectively.

“Omarska camp was a joint criminal enterprise, a facility used to interrogate, discriminate against, and otherwise abuse non-Serbs from Prijedor and which functioned as a means to rid the territory of or subjugate non-Serbs,“ the Hague judges said in their verdict.

The prosecutors in Sarajevo want to include these facts established by the Hague tribunal, but the defense and the Bosnian judges still have to agree on that. However, the trial chamber said this week certain facts could be introduced during the proceedings

The trial should start on December 20.

Denis Dzidic is an IWPR reporter in Sarajevo.

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