Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
COURTSIDE: Keraterm Camp Trial - The 'Good' Camp Guard
Defence lawyers for Damir Dosen, one three defendants accused of crimes at the Keraterm detention camp in Prijedor, began presenting their case last week by summoning a number of former detainees to testify to the defendant's compassion.
As an alleged guard shift commander at Keraterm, Dosen is accused of responsibility for killings and beatings carried out during his shift. One prosecution witness said Dosen may have participated in one murder.
The defence argue that as a reserve police officer deployed at Keraterm, Dosen, nicknamed Kajin, found himself in an unfamiliar situation and without the authority to influence the treatment of detainees or to prevent persons arriving at the camp from abusing the prisoners.
Vladimir Petrovic, representing Dosen, said the only thing his client could do was to rely on his "own sense of good" in his relationship with the detainees.
"Many in the camp could sleep peacefully when they heard the name Kajin," said protected witness DO, a detainee at the camp in the summer of 1992. "I can remember well that once he took off his belt, threw down his gun and said, 'I can no longer do this.' He said that he'd rather go to Australia and hunt kangaroos."
DO claims that Dosen was an ordinary guard who could not give orders to anyone. Dosen and other guards in the camp warned the detained Bosniaks and Croats to be aware of extreme people like Zoran Zigic, Duca Knezevic and the brothers Predrag and Nenad Banovic, the witness said. Zigic is currently awaiting a judgement in his trial for crimes at the Prijedor camps. The other three are wanted for crimes at Keraterm but are still at large.
Another former detainee, protected witness DN, said that he had never seen the accused beating anyone. "Once Kajin sat down with us detainees in the room, he offered us his rifle and said, 'Here, kill me if you think that I am guilty,'" DN recalled.
DN said that Dosen had told him he was at the camp against his will, which was "not easy for him".
During cross-examination, the prosecution tried to demonstrate that the witnesses were biased. The prosecution pointed out that the witnesses were not among those beaten in the prison and claimed they had received privileged treatment because of their acquaintance with the accused.
Nevertheless, during opening statements, the prosecution acknowledged that several former detainees, including some prosecution witnesses, had spoken positively about Dosen. The prosecutor argued, however, that this does not free him from responsibility for the abuse he failed to prevent during his shift.
The defence proving procedure continues.
Vjera Bogati is an IWPR special correspondent at The Hague and a journalist with SENSE News Agency.
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