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

Omarska-Keraterm Trial - Keraterm Witnesses Speak Of The 'Room 3 Massacre'

Tribunal Update 184 Last Week in The Hague (July 10-15, 2000)
By IWPR

Zigic is the only one of the five defendants charged with the Keraterm offences. The remaining four - Miroslav Kvocka and Dragoljub Prcac, former deputy camp commanders, and Mladjo Radic and Milojica Kos, former guard shift commanders - face charges relating to their alleged role at Omarska.


According to the indictment, around 200 Muslim men from Hambarine and surrounding villages in the Brdo area were arrested in mid-July 1992 by Bosnian Serb forces and taken to the Keraterm camp. The men were put in "Room 3", a warehouse at the former ceramics factory.


In the early evening of July 24, a table was placed at the entrance to Room 3 and a heavy machine gun set on top. A chair was put behind the table and a spotlight directed at the door.


Former Keraterm detainees, who were locked in the neighbouring room, told the court what followed, based on what they heard or saw through the crack in the metal door to their room.


First they heard cries and moans, then a long burst of machine gun fire, then a seemingly endless series of single shots. Some of the prosecution witnesses said they were called out the next morning and ordered to remove the bodies from in front of and inside Room 3.


The witnesses said it was a "horrible sight." The entrance to Room 3 was blocked with dozens of bodies, badly disfigured by machine gun shots. After clearing the entrance, the witnesses said, they found a further 100 or so bodies inside the room, among them wounded men screaming for help and water.


After the bodies had been carried onto the lawn in front of the warehouse, the witnesses said, a large truck arrived at the camp to remove the remains. One witness, who watched through the crack in the door to Room 2, said he saw Zigic help the truck to park beside the bodies.


A new group of detainees were then ordered to load the bodies onto the truck, the witness said. Those with serious injuries were put in with the dead, he said, and eventually even those with relatively minor injuries were ordered to climb aboard. The truck then drove off to an unknown destination, the witness said.


The witnesses estimated between 120 and 160 detainees were killed in the July 24 massacre. A further 40 were wounded. Some witnesses said they later came across survivors of the Room 3 massacre at the Trnopolje and Manjaca camps.


None of these survivors, however, appeared before the court last week, leading to speculation prosecutors are "saving" them for the trial of Dusko Sikirica, former commander at Keraterm, Dragan Kolundzija, commander of the guard shift on duty at the camp on July 24, 1992, and Damir Dosen. That trial is expected to start later this year.


As far as Zigic in concerned, prosecutors seem content to prove he was present at Keraterm at the time of the killings.


Witnesses testified last week to seeing Zigic torture and murder several detainees during his "visits" to the camp. They said he was the "loudest" at Keraterm, always shouting and threatening to "kill all of us."


Witness AD said he scolded the guards for their "poor work" and for not "killing them all."


"He was the worst and no member of the camp staff opposed him," A.D. said.


Prosecutors then returned to events at Omarska. A former colleague of Kvocka, Prcac and Radic - Nusret Sivac - took the witness stand to give a detailed account of the defendants' movements and behaviour at the camp.


Sivac had worked with the three accused for nearly 20 years before war broke out. They were police officers in the Prijedor area and Sivac an employee of the security service's Centre for Communications and Cryptography.


The witness was held at Omarska between June 23 and August 6, 1992. As if reciting from a police notebook, Sivac told the court where and when he had seen the accused, whether they were wearing uniform, whether they were armed, how the guards reacted to them and how they treated the detainees.


During violent incidents, Sivac described where the accused stood and what they did. Sivac said he had no doubt Kvocka, Prcac, Radic and Kos were all in positions of authority at the camp - they issued orders and were obeyed without question.


Sivac said he saw Radic issue orders for detainees to be beaten and, in fact, witnessed Radic beat prisoners himself. Kos, he said, was present when guards from his detail called out detainees and took them off to the White House, from where they never returned.


On July night, Sivac said, around a dozen prominent members of the Prijedor Muslim community - the president of the municipality, the president of the court, company directors, engineers, teachers and lawyers - were taken away and never came back.


Sivac said he had chosen to testify "not only in his own name, but also in the name of the numerous friends and acquaintances he lost at Omarska."


The trial continues on August 28, 2000.


More IWPR's Global Voices

Why Did Cuba Jail This Journalist?
Rights defenders say that unusually harsh punishment reflects wider troubles for Havana regime.
Under A Watchful Eye: Cyber Surveillance in Cuba
Cuba's Less Than Beautiful Game