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

Long Jail Terms for Prison Camp Accused

Defendants in Omarska and Keraterm trial receive a sum total of 63 years behind bars.
By Denis Dzidic
Three Bosnian Serbs have been convicted of crimes against humanity committed in the notorious Omarska and Keraterm detention camps in northern Bosnia in 1992.



The Sarajevo-based War Crimes Chamber of the Bosnian state court sentenced Zeljko Mejakic to 21 years’ imprisonment and his two co-accused Momcilo Gruban and Dusan Knezevic to 11 and 31 years, respectively.



Some 7,000 Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats and other non-Serb civilians were detained in the Omarska and Keraterm prison camps, established in the northwestern municipality of Prijedor in 1992. Prosecutors alleged that Mejakic, Gruban and Knezevic were guilty of the murder, rape, beating and forcible detention of camp detainees.



In a verdict read out on May 30, judges said Mejakic, Gruban and Knezevic took part in a joint criminal enterprise, aimed at “forcefully removing, detaining, and harassing the non-Serb population” from Prijedor.



Mejakic, who according to the judgement was the highest-ranking official in Omarska, where he had “power over the lives of 3,000 Bosniak and Croat detainees”, was convicted for responsibility for crimes against humanity, including killings, unlawful confinement, torture, sexual abuse and persecution.



Gruban was found guilty of crimes against humanity “primarily by virtue of his role as a leader of one of the three guard shifts in the Omarska camp”, said a court press release.



Knezevic, who according to the verdict did not perform any formal function in the detention camps, was convicted of direct involvement in crimes – including killings, tortures and other inhumane acts – committed in both camps.



The fourth accused in this case, Dusan Fustar, pleaded guilty to the charges against him in April 2008. He was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for crimes committed in Keraterm.



Mejakic’s defense counsel Jovan Simic told the local media that “the prosecution failed to provide [a single piece of] evidence that Mejakic was in charge of the Omarska camp”.



The defence teams of the three accused said they would appeal the ruling in the case, which is the third to be transferred from the Hague tribunal to the Bosnian court.



Denis Dzidic is an IWPR-trained reporter.