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Fifth Omarska Camp Suspect Captured

Dragoljub Prcac becomes the fifth suspect to appear at The Hague accused of crimes at the Omarska detention camp. Three further suspects remain at large.

Bosnian Serb, Dragoljub Prcac, 62, charged under the "Meakic & Others" indictment for crimes commited at the Omarska detention camp in north west Bosnia, pleaded "not guilty" to all charges before the Tribunal on March 10. Prcac was arrested by SFOR troops less than a week after four others accused of crimes at Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje began their trial at the Tribunal.

Now the Tribunal is once again faced with an awkward dilemma. Whether to organise a separate trial for a defendant named in the same indictment as others currently on trial or to arrange some means for incorporating the accused into a trial already underway. The three separate trials of four Bosnian Croats - Tihomir Blaskic, Zlatko Aleksovski, Dario Kordic and Mario Cerkez - accused in the same indictment of crimes in the Lasva river vally area of central Bosnia is a clear illustration of how wasteful the first option can be.

The Tribunal now has to decide whether to include Prcac in the "Kvocka & Others" trial, which started on February 28, or wait until some of the other three accused of crimes at Omarska - Zeljko Meakic, Momcilo Gruban and Dusan Knezevic - are apprehended or surrender to the court.

A decision is expected within two weeks, by which time Prcac should have named his defence counsel. An adjournment in the "Kvocka & Others" trial was requested by the prosection until a decision is made on how to proceed against Prcac. The prosecutor, Brenda Hollis, asked the judges to establish a balance between the right of the accused to a speedy trial and economising on legal proceedings at the Tribunal. Hollis recommended a delay of 90 days in the "Kvocka & Others" trial, to enable Prcac's lawyers to prepare a defence.

Prcac is the fourth indictee - after generals Stanislav Galic, Zoran Vukovic and Mitar Vasiljevic - to be arrested in the three months since new NATO Secretary General George Robertson said he was personally committed to bringing suspects still at large before the Tribunal (see Tribunal Update 160). Following Prcac's arrest, Robertson warned other indictees, "It's time for you to surrender."

The "Meakic & Others" indictment was issued in February 1995. Former Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour "cleaned up" the indictment in June 1998, removing 11 names from the list of accused, people she assessed as "small fry", too insignificant for the Tribunal to deal with.

Prcac, however, as a deputy to the Omarska camp's commander remained in the indictment. After his arrest the indictment was amended once again to bring it into line with the indictment against "Kvocka & Others".

Under the amended indictment Prcac faces charges of crimes against humanity (persecution on political, racial or religious grounds, inhumane acts, murder and torture), and violations of the laws and customs of war (outrages against personal dignity, murder, torture and cruel treatment). Charges of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions were dropped in the amended indictment - as they were against Kvocka and his three co-accused, Mladjo Radic, Milojica Kos and Zoran Zigic. In order for such charges to apply, the prosecution would have to prove the international character of the conflict.

The revised indictment also charges Prcac with individual criminal responsibility, in addition to charges in the original indictment relating to his responsibility as a senior officer for crimes committed by men under his command. The prosecutor accuses him of having personally taken part in the killings, torture and beatings of Omarska prisoners.

On his arrival at The Hague, Prcac filled the last empty cell in the original UN Detention Unit. The Tribunal has now adapted an additional 12 cells at the Dutch prison housing the detention unit, bringing the total to 48.

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