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Kolundzija Arrested On Keraterm Charges

Tribunal Update 129: Last Week in The Hague (7-13 June, 1999)
By IWPR

In the situation of Tribunal's general preoccupation with Kosovo war-crimes-in-progres, this was a useful 'reminder' of the unfinished business in Bosnia, where thirty or so publicly indicted persons still remain at large.


His apprehension was the first this year and the eleventh successful arrest by the members of international forces in Bosnia so far (NATO wrongly claims it was the fourteenth). The last action of such kind was performed on 2 December 1998, when an Army of Republika Srpska General, Radislav Krstic, was arrested in Eastern Bosnia.


Dragan Kolundzija, also known as "Kole", born 31 July 1966 in the town of Gradina in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was one of the three shift commanders in the Keraterm prison camp in the summer of 1992. The first co-accused on the same indictment, issued in July 1995, is the prison-camp commander, Dusko Sikirica, also known as "Sikira". Sikirica was indicted for genocide and is still at large. In the total of 13 counts, Kolundzija was charged with crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and violations of the laws or customs of war.


The "Keraterm Camp" indictment says that from approximately 24 May to 30 August 1992, Serb forces unlawfully detained more than 3,000 Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats in a former ceramics factory and storage area complex ("Keraterm camp"), in the municipality of Prijedor, Bosnia and Herzegovina.


According to the indictment, the detainees were, inter alia, "subjected to physical violence, constant humiliation, degradation, inhumane conditions, and fear of death. Hundreds of detainees were killed, and severe beatings were commonplace.


All manner of weapons were used during these beatings, including wooden batons, metal rods, baseball bats, lengths of thick industrial cable that had metal balls affixed to the end, rifle butts, and knives. The killings, beatings, sexual assaults, and other cruel and humiliating actions were committed on every shift. Many detainees, whose identities are known and unknown, did not survive."


In the seven counts of the indictment Kolundzija - together with the other two shift commanders, Damir Dosen and Dragan Fustar, who are still at large - is charged under the principle of command responsibility for willful killings, willful causing of great suffering, outrages upon the personal dignity of all the Keraterm detainees and for persecution of the Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats on political, racial and religious grounds. According to this principle, shift commanders are responsible for crimes committed in the prison camp by their subordinates - wardens or external 'visitors' - that they failed to prevent or punish.


Apart from this, Dragan Kolundzija is also charged with individual criminal responsibility for the gravest crime of the entire indictment: the murder of at least 140 men from the region of Brdo near Prijedor, who were detained in room No. 3 of the Keraterm prison-camp. "About 24 July 1992," the indictment claims, "the detainees in room 3 were not allowed out of the room. During the day and early evening, machine guns were set up in front of the rooms. That night soldiers were brought into camp and formed a semi circle around room 3.


Later that night, the guards and soldiers began firing into the room with machine guns and heavy caliber guns. The firing continued of and on over a period of several hours, alternating between continuous fire and short bursts of fire. The fire was directed toward room 3. However, some of the bullets went into at least one of the others rooms. On that evening, Dragan Kolundzija was the guard shift commander. He gave orders that the other rooms were not to be fired on. He gave no orders that room 3 was not to be fired on."


Out of all other wardens and soldiers who participated in the massacre, the indictment identifies only Zoran Zigic, who surrendered himself to the Tribunal voluntarily last year, while he was serving a sentence for a 'civil' - not a war crime - at the Banja Luka prison. In his first appearance before the judges, Zigic stated that he was not guilty of any of the 69 counts of his indictment, including those referring to the massacre at the room no. 3 of the Keraterm prison camp.


Dragan Kolundzija's initial appearance hearing will be held on Monday 14 June at 2.00 p.m. before Trial Chamber III consisting of Judge Richard May (Presiding), Judge Mohamed Bennouna and Judge Patrick Lipton Robinson.