Omarska Camp Trial

Defence case opens

Omarska Camp Trial

Defence case opens

Saturday, 27 January, 2001

Lawyers representing the Prijedor detention camp defendants opened their case last week by calling for the nationalist leaders on all sides of the Bosnian conflict to be tried for their crimes.

"In the interests of reconciliation," said Krstan Simic representing Miroslav Kvocka, "[the tribunal needs to] examine and assess the possible role of [former Bosniak president] Mr Izetbegovic."

Miroslav Kvocka, Mladjo Radic, Dragoljub Prcac, Milojica Kos and Zoran Zigic are accused of crimes committed at the Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje detention camps in 1992.

Banja Luka lawyer Krstan Simic, representing Kvocka, did not dispute grave crimes took place at Omarska, where his client was, according to the prosecution, deputy commandant, or that the crimes were committed during an armed conflict - a precondition for tribunal jurisdiction.

But Simic said responsibility for those crimes lay with the "nationalist parties" on the Serbian, Muslim and Croatian sides of the conflict.

"The peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina, who did not deserve what happened to them, were led by unfit people," Simic said. The nationalist politicians, the lawyer went on, sought to secure their position within "their nations by negating the other nations."

Simic stressed that the Serbs' leaders at the time - Radovan Karadzic and Slobodan Milosevic - are already Hague indictees. Only death prevented the Croats' national leader, Franjo Tudjman, from facing similar charges, Simic claimed.

The lawyer mentioned the Celebici camp trial, which prosecuted some of those responsible for crimes against Bosnian Serb detainees. "The public knows about Tarcin, Glavice and Kazani," Simic said, referring to crimes committed by Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) forces against Bosnian Croats and Serbs.

Only when all who are responsible are "equally treated", Simic said, would Bosnia have a chance of "truth, repentance and reconciliation".

As for the crimes at Omarska, Simic claimed the man responsible for all offences committed at the camp was the then police chief in Prijedor, Simo Drljaca.

Drljaca, Simic claimed, exercised absolute control at Omarska and the other camps in the area. His orders had to be obeyed without question, the lawyer said.

This was not news to the OTP, which issued an indictment against Drljaca for genocide in 1996, alongside Milan Kovacevic. Drljaca died in July 1997 during a shoot-out with Stabilisation Force troops sent to arrest him. Kovacevic, who was arrested the same day, died in the summer of 1998 in the tribunal's detention unit, less than two weeks into his trial.

Kvocka's defence denies their client was deputy commander at the camp. The accused was, they say, responsible for "the internal security of buildings" and was "utterly unimportant" in the camp hierarchy.

Moreover, Simic claimed, Kvocka was viewed with suspicion and contempt by the Prijedor police because he was married to a Muslim, as were his sisters.

Former colleagues of Kvocka appeared as witnesses for the defence and confirmed there were "rumours" in Prijedor police circles that the accused was "unfit", "disloyal" and even a "traitor". Drljaca allegedly wanted to place Kvocka under security service surveillance.

Why then, asked the prosecutor, was Kvocka not dismissed from the service, but instead promoted in 1994 to be shift leader at the Prijedor police station?

Judge Fouad Riad asked Prijedor police officer Brane Bolta whether such a promotion indicated the Republika Srpska authorities considered Kvocka a "a good and loyal policeman".

"Absolutely," Bolta replied, clearly unaware the damage his compliment could pay to the defence's argument.

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