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COURTSIDE: Keraterm Camp Trial - The 'Traumatised' Guard

Defence lawyers for Keraterm guard call on psychologist to contest charges against him
By Mina Vidakovic

Damir Dosen is accused alongside Dusko Sikirica and Dragan Kolundzija of committing crimes inside the Keraterm concentration camp. He has been described by several prosecution and defence witnesses as a young man who found it hard to deal with the inhuman conditions and abuse dealt out to detainees at the camp. When hearing the confessions of former detainees, Dosen often gave the impression of being shaken. He has even cried.


According to Belgrade psychologist Ana Najman, who was called as a defence expert witness, his behaviour is typical of someone re-experiencing trauma. "Every time the subject talks about, or remembers, the traumatic events that took place before, he has the psychological experience of going through them again," said Najman. "He suffers because of that. He suffers from emotional pain and he can't handle that."


Najman went on to describe Dosen as an unstable personality with a low level of self-esteem, emotionally vulnerable, and prone to depression and a sense of hopelessness. He also suffered from psychosomatic problems like nausea and vomiting.


During their conversations about Keraterm, Najman told the court how Dosen focussed on the horror he had seen and how it made him feel nauseous.


Dosen was accused of being one of the guard shift commanders at Keraterm. The defence tried to contest his "command responsibility" through the testimony of Najman who described him as a person obedient to authority and unable himself to lead.


Dosen's defence counsel Vladimir Petrovic said that when Dosen was deployed at Keraterm, he found himself faced with situations he was not equipped to deal with. When Petrovic asked Najman how the situation had affected Dosen, she explained that the additional stress and unpleasantness of the experience "could only reinforce his feeling of insecurity inadequacy and low self-esteem".


Prosecutor Dirk Ryneveld contested her findings on the grounds that her opinion had been gathered merely on the basis of three days of conversation with Dosen. On this basis, it would have been natural, said Ryneveld "for the subject to try and present himself in the best possible light".


"Yes, it is natural," Najman responded, but explained that there were techniques to establish the reliability of such statements. Though she could not tell whether he was telling the truth about particular events, it was possible, she said, to tell whether he was presenting himself in an honest manner. As such, her findings showed that her assessment was correct.


Damir Dosen's defence continues this week.


Mina Vidakovic is a journalist with SENSE News Agency.