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Omarska Trial - Witnesses Tell Of Criteria For Selection Of 'Disappeared'

Tribunal Update 183 Last Week in The Hague (July 3-8, 2000)
By IWPR

Guards would come and call out the names of detainees, the witness said. Those selected would be marched off to the White House or Red House, to return either "badly beaten or not at all," Strikovic said.


The five accused - Miroslav Kvocka and Dragoljub Prcac, former deputy commanders at Omarska, Mladjo Radic and Milojica Kos, guard shift commanders, and Zoran Zigic, a "visitor" to Omarska and Keraterm - are charged with crimes against humanity for alleged offences committed at the so-called Prijedor camps between May and August 1992.


The judges asked Strikovic if the guards used specific criteria when selecting detainees to be beaten or killed. In the early days at the camp, the witness said, everything was "very thought through and planned."


"Men of authority, the intellectual and business elite of the Muslim community in Prijedor" were the first to be taken away, Strikovic said. Over time, however, "that logic was lost" and anyone could be dragged away, beaten or killed, he said.


Protected witness Y, a former detainee at Omarska and Keraterm, listed three categories in a response to the same question. First came engineers, doctors and other intellectuals, second wealthy private entrepreneurs, and third Albanians from Kosovo who happened to be in the area at the beginning of the war, he said. Kosovar Albanians were "treated the worst," witness Y said.


The largest number of detainees at Omarska were taken away during the guard shifts commanded by Radic, also known as Krkan, the witness said. Witnesses confirmed the four Omarska officers were in positions of command at the camp, that they sometimes attended the roll calls and saw detainees removed, and that they "knew or had reason to know" what became of those led away, many of whom were "never seen again."


Kvocka, Prcac, Radic and Kos also face charges based on the principle of command responsibility - they had a duty to prevent crimes by soldiers under their command and to punish the perpetrators of crimes.


Witness Y told the court how on several occasions he was ordered to load bodies removed from the Red and White houses onto trucks, which then took the remains to unknown locations. Some of those sites have now been found, however, and Chief Prosecutor , Carla del Ponte, said last week the exhumation process in the Prijedor area had been completed on July 4.


Forensic teams from the Tribunal found the remains of 116 people in two locations, del Ponte said. In addition the Tribunal prosecution forensic scientists had helped the Bosnian authorities exhume remains from a third location in the same area, which revealed the bodies of at least another 50 people.


Deputy Prosecutor, Graham Blewitt, said results from these three locations would be used as evidence in the ongoing Omarska trial and the up-coming Keraterm trial. The evidence will probably be used against Radoslav Brdjanin, former deputy prime minister of Republika Srpska, and General Momir Talic, former commander of the Army of Republika Srpska Krajina Corps. Both men are accused of genocide for crimes in the Krajina region, which includes Prijedor and the Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje detention camps.


One man taken away to the Omarska White House and "never to be seen again" was Islam Bahonjic. Witness Fadil Avdagic told the court last week that he last saw Bahonjic in July 1992 being "pulled from the White House." Then in May this year, Avdagic said, local television reported one of the bodies exhumed from a mass grave containing some 30 corpses in Kevljani, near Prijedor, was that of Islam Bahonjic.


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