Omarska Trial

Tribunal Update 179 Last Week in The Hague (June 5-10, 2000)

Omarska Trial

Tribunal Update 179 Last Week in The Hague (June 5-10, 2000)

Saturday, 10 June, 2000

Miroslav Kvocka, Dragoljub Prcac, Mladen Radic, Milojica Kos and Zoran Zigic, are accused of crimes at the Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje camps between May and August 1992.

According to the indictment, 6,000 inmates from the Prijedor area were interned in the three camps during the summer of 1992. Several former detainees from the Omarska camp testified last week to the hell those inmates endured.

Mirsad Alisic told the court that even before he had disembarked from the bus which brought him to Omarska, he witnessed the murder of six men taken from another bus.

Alisic said he arrived at the camp on the evening of May 30, 1992. One guard, Drazenko Predojevic, swore at the group of new arrivals, "Balija mothers" [a pejorative term for Bosnian Muslims] and opened fire with an automatic weapon. Alisic said the guard then warned the detainees the shootings were to show them "where they had come and what awaits them." Predojevic, the witness said, was a guard on Radic's shift.

Alisic said he was taken from the bus to "Muja's room", which housed around 1,000 prisoners that evening. The witness said everywhere he turned there were familiar faces. "The whole of Prijedor was there," Alisic said.

All of the former detainee witnesses described the same terrible conditions - lack of food, little water, non-existent medical care, appalling hygiene, and constant beatings when they ventured to the toilet or for lunch. Each witness had also been on the receiving end of severe beatings, which had resulted in permanent injuries.

Two witnesses said they were present when 70-year-old Mehmedalija Nasic was murdered. Both witnesses said a guard, Cvitan Plavsic, opened fire on the old man when he demanded to know why they were being detained. Nasic died instantly and three other inmates were wounded, the witnesses said.

Alisic said Kvocka, the camp's deputy commander, attended the incident and criticised a group of detainees for not keeping Nasic quiet.

Alisic pointed out Kvocka and Radic to the court. Before the war he had known both men well.

Edin Mrkalj, a Prijedor police officer and former colleague of Kvocka and Radic, also identified the two men in court. Mrkalj could not, however, pick out his Prcac, another former colleague. During cross-examination he also failed to identify the Omarska camp commander Zeljko Meakic from a photograph despite having spent three years with him at the police academy in Sarajevo.

As a police officer Mrkalj spoke in detail on the rules governing police service in the former Yugoslavia - the rights of detainees, the duties of police officers, hearings procedures, the use of firearms, and the duties of superiors to prevent or punish abuses by their subordinates. Mrkalj concluded that the guards and commanders at Omarska had failed to observe these rules.

The majority of inmates at Omarska were Bosniak, but the camp also held a number of Bosnian Croats and other nationals. Alisic and Jasmin Okic said they witnessed guards beating a Croatian inmate, Gordan Kardum, to death. Another detainee Bajram Zgog, a Kosovar Albanian, had tried to commit suicide using a piece of glass to cut his own throat, Alisic said. A guard had threatened to kill Zgog, a member of the local football team, unless he produced 500 German marks, the witness said. Only the intervention of fellow inmates prevented Zgog from killing himself.

When Omarska closed, the inmates were transferred to Trnopolje camp, before finally being released. At the end of 1992, Alisic and Okic said they had decided to leave Prijedor and Bosnia. Before they were allowed to go, the witnesses said, they had to sign statements renouncing their property - their houses, land, cars and so forth - and placing them at the disposal of Bosnian Serb authorities.

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