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

Keraterm Camp Trials

Detainees recount experiences of Serb seizure of Prijedor

During the opening two weeks of the Keraterm camp trial little new information has come to light.

The inhuman conditions in the Prijedor camps at Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje during the summer of 1992 were gone over in detail at the trial of Dusko Tadic, the first tribunal case.

Tadic was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for his part in the massacres, murders, torture, sexual abuse and beatings of Bosniak and Croat detainees. The nightmare of the camps figured too in the short-lived trial of Milan Kovacevic, who died three weeks into the proceedings.

Former Keraterm detainees repeated their now well-known experiences last week in the trial of Dusko Sikirica, accused of genocide as commander of the camp, and Dragan Kolundzija and Damir Dosen, charged with crimes against humanity as guard shift commanders.

The former prisoners recounted their experiences of the Serb seizure of power in Prijedor on April 30, 1992 and of the mass arrests which came a month later.

Over several days around 7,000 Bosniaks and Croats from Prijedor and nearby villages were detained in camps at Keraterm, Omarska and Trnopolje.

The witnesses described how and when they were arrested, how they were brought to Keraterm, and how, immediately upon arrival, they were exposed to beatings.

They spoke of the roll calls, the beatings and killings. Individual murders were described, as well as the notorious Room 3 Massacre, in which 150 detainees were murdered.

All of last week's witnesses identified the three accused before the court. Most knew one or all of the defendants before they were arrested and taken to the camp.

Describing the command structure there, the witnesses claimed Sikirica was a commander. Sikirica's defence disputes this, claiming he was only the "commander of security" and that the camp itself was under military command.

The witnesses said Dosen and Kolundzija were guard shift commanders. The defence do not contest their clients' positions within the camp, but claim crimes, such as murder and beatings, were least frequent when Dosen and Kolundzija were working.

In general, prosecution witnesses confirmed this was the case. But as protected witness F pointed out, "Every shift had its system of treating the detainees, some treated them better, others worse....but all, in essence, were bad."

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