Courtside: Stakic Trial

By Chris Stephen and Neil Arun in The Hague (TU 305, 17-21 March 2003)

Courtside: Stakic Trial

By Chris Stephen and Neil Arun in The Hague (TU 305, 17-21 March 2003)

Tuesday, 22 February, 2005

Judge Wolfgang Shomburg dramatically stopped the trial mid-way through evidence to deliver a warning to the witness, Petar Stanar, who was Stakic’s former driver.

Judge Shomburg said he needed to “warn the witness of the duty to tell the truth and the consequences of failing to do so”.

“The maximum penalty is one hundred thousand euro or seven years in prison. A number of discrepancies of your own testimony leads us to this warning,” he continued.

The warning came after Stanar told the court that although Stakic sometimes wore military uniform, this was a rare occurrence.

Prosecutors are likely to argue that the donning of military uniform proves that Stakic took an active role with security forces in the setting up of prison camps.

Stanar said that although he picked Stakic up from his home in Omarska to drive him to Prijedor each day, he had no knowledge that an infamous concentration camp was located in the same village.

“You could call it a camp, I don’t know,” the witness told the court. “I drove Dr Stakic. We would go home to Omarska. He never talked to me about this camp. This was never a subject of our conversations while we were driving.”

Questioned by prosecutors, Stanar said that Stakic sometimes wore army uniform when he was being driven around.

But he said this uniform was worn infrequently, and denied assertions that Stakic had donned the uniform to visit troops – presumably a move that would strengthen prosecution claims that the defendant did have command of troops.

“He didn’t visit the troops anywhere,” said Stanar. “He put it on important dates, when a wreath was laid.”

It was then that judge Shomburg gave his warning. Afterwards, the witness told the court, “I just told you he would put a uniform on special occasions, I did not lie when I said that. I told the truth, he would wear the uniform only very rarely. He would wear a uniform to receive a military delegations or where he would lay flowers at the monument or when he would go to the barracks.”

He said he had never taken Stakic to either the Omarska or Keraterm camps – camps the prosecutors say the defendant helped organise. And even the horrors of Kozarac, a town was cleansed of Muslims and Croats, was not noticed by Stanar, though he admitted to noticing some damaged buildings when he once drove through the town.

Chris Steven is IWPR’s bureau chief in The Hague. Neil Arun is an IWPR contributor.

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