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COURTSIDE: Omarska Camp Trial - Short Testimonies End Long Case
The 15-month-long procedure of five defendants accused of crimes at the Omarska detention camp in Prijedor ended last week. The court has heard from 51 prosecution and 89 defence witnesses.
The closing phase belonged to the defence teams representing Miroslav Kvocka and Dragoljub Prcac, alleged to have been deputies to the Omarska camp commander. Their defence lawyers challenged evidence presented two weeks ago by prosecutors during the so-called "rebuttal phase" of the trial, where the prosecution counters the defence's evidence.
Prosecution witness AW had testified that in spring 1993, Kvocka and another Prijedor police officer, Momcilo Gruban (also accused of crimes in Omarska, but still at large) forced him to reveal where his family's valuables were buried. AW said the two men stole the jewellery, gold and money. (See Tribunal Update 224).
Last week, Kvocka took the stand to refute this. He claimed he participated in the treasure hunt at AW's request and after Gruban had talked him into it. He said he did so in order to enable AW to retrieve the money and take his family away from Prijedor.
Kvocka said that after two days of digging they found "some gold", but not the money, and that they gave everything to AW. Jasminka Kvocka, the defendant's wife, confirmed her husband's version of events and said this was not the only occasion he had helped Prijedor Muslims.
Prcac's defence lawyer also claimed his client had helped Muslim inmates and had attracted a "bad reputation" among Prijedor Serbs as a result. Two witnesses described in an identical way how Prcac "helped Muslims and on one occasion even pulled a gun on a camp guard in order to prevent him maltreating the detainees". The two five minute testimonies broke records for their brevity.
Presiding judge Almiro Rodrigues asked one of the witnesses to cite at least one person who had told her the story or the occasion on which she had heard it. But the witness said she could not recall when, from whom or in what circumstances she had heard the reports of Prcac protecting Muslims."
The closing arguments of the prosecutor and the five defendants are scheduled for the week starting July 16. The judgement is expected in September.
Vjera Bogati is an IWPR special correspondent at The Hague and a journalist with SENSE News Agency.
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