COURTSIDE: Keraterm Camp Trial

Tears of guilt for Keraterm inmates

COURTSIDE: Keraterm Camp Trial

Tears of guilt for Keraterm inmates

Saturday, 13 October, 2001

The sentencing hearing for the Keraterm camp indictment was marked by tears and remorse as the case's three guilty defendants addressed the trial chamber last week.

Dusko Sikirica, Damir Dosen and Dragan Koludzija, unexpectedly confessed their guilt towards the end of their trial last month: all three stood accused of persecution on political racial and religious grounds at Keraterm. That admission of guilt and expressions of repentance and regret may influence the sentences they can now expect to receive.

All three of the guilty men asked for and were given the opportunity to address the judges last week. They read out prepared statements in which they expressed their regret for what had taken place in the Keraterm camp during the summer of 1992, and for the suffering of innocent civilians, whose only sin, according to Damir Dosen, was that they were not Serbs.

All three pointed out that as they had been drafted they were all in Keraterm "against their will" but nonetheless accepted responsibility for the fact they had not opposed the regime at the camp nor done more to help the inmates. Dosen, who cried earlier in the trial during the harrowing testimonies of former camp inmates, finished his statement in tears, claiming the evil that took place "should not be forgotten".

The length of the men's sentences will to a great extent depend on how far they manage to convince the judges that they are indeed genuinely repentant. In past cases where there have been complete or partial admissions of guilt, the trial judges have given significant weight to whether expressions of regret or repentance for past acts are in fact sincere.

Such admissions are deemed to be important because they establish truth and also make the revision of history more difficult.

The defence and prosecution have already made a plea agreement in the Keraterm case: with each side proposing to the judges an upper or lower limit for the sentences to be passed. In the case of Sikirica, who was chief of security at the Keraterm camp, and found guilty of killing an inmate, amongst other things, a sentence of no less than ten and no more than 17 years is proposed. For Damir Dosen, between five to seven years, and for Dragan Kolundzija, between three to five years.

While the judges are free to ignore these propositions and impose whatever sentence they see fit, a powerful incentive not to is an agreement by both that neither side will appeal against a sentence if it falls within the agreed range. The judges are considering their sentences.

Mirko Klarin is IWPR senior editor for the war crimes tribunal and editor-in-chief of SENSE News Agency.

Support our journalists