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

COURTSIDE: Omarska Camp Case

Case pile up means Omarska camp guard waits over a week for first court appearance.
By Mirko Klarin

With six trials in process and the three Hague courtrooms occupied daily from morning till night, Momcilo Gruban had to wait eight days from the day of his surrender to enter his not guilty plea.

A former guard shift commander at the notorious Omarska detention camp near Prijedor, in north-west Bosnia, Gruban, nicknamed Ckalja, is charged with unlawful confinement of civilians, murder, torture, rape, outrages upon

personal dignity, and with wilfully causing great suffering, humiliation

and degradation of detainees.

In a brief 10 minutes appearance on May 10, he pleaded not guilty to all 11 counts of the indictment.

Gruban is charged on the basis of "command responsibility" for these crimes. It is said he neither tried to prevent them nor punish his subordinates for committing them.

The indictment for the crimes committed in Omarska was passed in July 1995 and in the meantime five camp commanders and guards have faced trial, receiving sentences that ranged from five to 25 years.

Two of the accused, guard shift commanders like Gruban, received very different sentences. Mladjo Radic was jailed for 20 years and Milojica Kos for six.

Victims said Radic commanded the "worst shift" and took part in crimes against the detainees, including raping women in Omarska. Kos was punished only for the crimes of his subordinates, which he did not stop or punish.

Former detainees testified that "Ckalja's shift" was less cruel than the

others. If found guilty, his sentence may be more in line with Kos's than Radic's.

Those on the original indictment for Omarska who remain at large are the

camp commander, Zeljko Meakic, and a camp "visitor" Dusan Knezevic, also charged for crimes committed in the other Prijedor camp of Keraterm.

Predrag Banovic and Dusan Fustar, accused of crimes in Keraterm, are awaiting trial. If Meakic and Knezevic are brought to The Hague soon, the prosecution is likely to request the joining of the Omarska and Keraterm indictments and a joint trial of the remaining group of five Prijedor camp defendants.

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

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