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COURTSIDE: Keraterm Camp Trial - Guardian Witness

Defence argues that British war correspondent's testimony about the camps is based on hearsay.

Ed Vulliamy, who in August 1992 was among a group of British journalists to visit detention centres in Prijedor at the invitation of Radovan Karadzic, was a prime witness in the trial of three men accused of crimes in Keraterm camp: the alleged camp commander, Dusko Sikirica, and guard shift leaders, Damir Dosen and Dragan Kolundzija,

Vulliamy, former correspondent of The Guardian in Croatia and Bosnia, has delivered more prosecution testimony than any other witness at The Hague. Previously, he testified in the trials of Dusko Tadic, General Tihomir Blaskic and Dr. Milan Kovacevic, always as a prosecution witness.

Judges accepted the prosecution's request that the transcript of his testimony in the trial of Dr Milan Kovacevic - one of the heads of the Serbian Crisis Headquarters in Prijedor, who died in the tribunal's detention unit at the end of July 1998 after the trial had begun - be included as material evidence in the latest proceedings.

Vulliamy's earlier testimony concerned what he had seen in Prijedor at the Omarska and Trnopolje camps in 1992, as well as the conversation that he had with Kovacevic in Prijedor in February 1996. Accepting that this testimony might be relevant for the Keraterm case as well, the judges unanimously permitted defence counsel for Dusko Sikirica, the commander of the camp accused of genocide, to cross-examine Vulliamy.

In the trial of Kovacevic, Vulliamy testified that the starved prisoners he saw in Trnopolje at the beginning of August 1992 told him that they had come from Keraterm and that a "terrible massacre" had taken place in that camp. Vulliamy said that in the interview conducted at the beginning of 1996, Kovacevic admitted to him that a "collective madness" had taken place in Prijedor. (See Tribunal Update No. 85, 15th July 1998)

Defence counsel for Dusko Sikirica, British lawyer Michael Greeves, argued last week that Vulliamy was relying on hearsay about Keraterm and had not tried to visit it.

During the Prijedor visit in August 1992, Vulliamy and a crew from the British ITN television station, escorted by the notorious police chief Simo Drljaca, visited only the Omarska camp. They passed by Keraterm, located in a former ceramic tile factory.

They made an unplanned stop in Trnopolje where, having escaped their escorts, they talked with detainees who told them about a massacre in which "some 200 people were killed in just one night" - a reference to the infamous massacre in room number 3.

It sufficed for Greeves to hear from the witness that he had never been to Keraterm and that he has no direct knowledge about Sikirica and the crimes of which he was accused.

The defence will begin its presentation on June 27. The end of this part of the trial is expected in mid-September.

Vjera Bogati is IWPR's correspondent in The Hague.

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