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

Omarska Trial - Former women detainees speak of seeing piles of bodies.

Tribunal Update 180 Last Week in The Hague (June 12-18, 2000)
By IWPR

Five suspects - Miroslav Kvocka, Mladen Radic, Dragoljub Prcac, Milojica Kos and Zoran Zigic - are accused of crimes against humanity for alleged offences committed in so-called Prijedor camps of Omarska, Trnopolje and Keraterm between May and August 1992.


Of the 36 women held at Omarska, the majority were Muslim. But several Croat women and two Serb women were also taken there - the latter because they had married a Muslim and a Croat.


Sifeta Susic, a former police clerk in Prijedor, said she was taken to Omarska because she had refused to sign a statement of loyalty to the new Serbian authorities, which took control of Prijedor town on 30 April 1992.


Susic said the women detainees were kept in the management building. During the day they worked in the canteen and kitchen. At night the women were taken to two offices used for interrogations during the day.


Every evening, Susic said, they had to clean blood, urine and other traces of violence from the rooms before they could sleep. Sometimes, she said, the interrogators left behind whips, lead pipes and other "instruments" used to extract information from detainees.


Susic and fellow former detainee, Zuhra Hrnic, said some women detainees would be taken away at night. These women would return several hours later bruised and crying. The women would not say what had happened, the witnesses said. Neither would their fellow detainees ask. Susic said she simply "assumed what had happened to them."


One of the five accused - Mladen Radic - is accused of the multiple rape. Nothing, however, was said concerning this charge in open court. Part of Susic's testimony was heard in "private session" where audio from the courtroom is not available to the public. When the hearing was re-opened to the public, Susic could clearly be heard sobbing.


Hrnic, a retired tailor, believes she was taken to Omarska because she is Muslim and because the new Serb authorities wanted to take everything away from her. Hrnic said all she had was a flat and that she still cannot return to live in it.


Where the women were kept in the management building afforded them a clear view of a large area of the camp. As a result, the women detainees were witnesses to many of the alleged crimes committed at Omarska.


Susic and Hrnic said they had seen detainees being beaten as they arrived at the canteen for lunch. Other prominent detainees, such as doctors, professors, and police inspectors had been separated from the others, the women said, and taken to the so-called White House and Red House. None of these men, the witnesses said, were ever seen again.


The women said that nearly every day they could see a pile of bodies on the lawn outside the White House. Small trucks would come and take the bodies away, the women said.


Hrnic said she counted the bodies nearly every morning from the room where the women slept. On average, she said, there would be at least five bodies and at most 13.


The one exception, Hrnic said, followed the so-called "St Bartholomew's massacre". On the night of an Orthodox religious holiday, guards had set fire to car tyres and shot at inmates, Hrnic said. The next morning, she said, a large truck was filled with bodies.


Susic identified her three former Prijedor police colleagues - Kvocka, Radic and Prcac - before the court. Both women said they had concluded the three accused were in command positions at the camp.


Susic and Hrnic said they saw the three accused everyday in and around the canteen and on the first floor of the management building where their offices were located, just opposite the rooms where the women were kept.