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Omarska-Keraterm Case: A Second 'Not Guilty' Plea

Tribunal Update 105: Last Week in The Hague (7-12 December, 1998)
By IWPR

They first pleaded not guilty in April and May this year, after Miroslav Kvocka, Mladjo Radici and Milojica Kos were arrested by SFOR and Zoran Zigic gave himself up to the Tribunal.


Meantime the two indictments against them were consolidated into one single indictment, so that the four accused were again invited to make their pleas on December 10. The original indictments for Omarska ("Meakic and others") and Keraterm ("Sikirica and others") against 10 more people who are still at large remain unchanged.


The most important amendment to indictments against the four detainees is in the new counts 1 to 3, which charge the accused with "persecution of Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Croats and other non-Serbs in the Prijedor area, on political, racial or religious grounds."


According to the indictment, the aim of persecution was "the permanent removal or "ethnic cleansing" of nearly all of the Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat population, allowing for the presence of only a small number of non-Serbs who would agree to conditions for living in a Serb-dominated State." The means utilised towards that aim include "murder, torture and beating, sexual assault and rape, harassment, humiliation, psychological abuse and confinement in inhumane conditions in the Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje camps."


That aim was achieved: during 1992 and 1993 when almost the entire non-Serb population of the district of Prijedor in North-Western Bosnia was murdered or expelled. Those killed and those expelled, together numbered some 50,000.


Miroslav Kvocka was at first commander, then deputy commander of Omarska prison-camp. Milojica Kos and Mladjo Radic were shift commanders who supervised one of the three shifts of guards that operated the Omarska camp, whereas Zoran Zigic was "frequent visitor" to both camps, where - according to indictment - he was coming to indulge in sadistic torment of detainees, by murdering and beating them heavily.


The Prosecutor holds all four "individually responsible" for persecution, inhumane acts, outrages upon personal dignity, murders, torture and cruel treatment. In addition to that Radic is also accused of rape and sexual violence against two female detainees at Omarska prison-camp.


Alternatively, Radic and Kos are, in view of their "position of superior authority" also charged with command responsibility for crimes committed by their subordinates that they did not prevent nor punish. The fourth co-accused, Zoran Zigic, is charged with only "individual criminal responsibility" for crimes he allegedly committed himself.


Kvocka, Kos and Zigic are charged with four counts of Crimes against humanity and four counts of Violation of the laws and customs of war. Due to the additional charge of rape, both qualifications were attributed to Radic six times. All above-mentioned crimes were in the original indictment also qualified as Grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, but Prosecutor appears to have given up on this in the amended indictment so as not to have to prove the international character of the conflict in the region of Prijedor.


The four accused again pleaded "not guilty", or "absolutely not guilty" a total of 36 times. Since the number of preliminary motions filed by the Defence have not been decided yet, presiding Judge Richard May concluded the hearing with a statement that the trial date can still not be fixed.