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27 February 2008
News

Mejakic et al: Similar Statements

BIRN BiH
Momcilo Gruban's Defence witnesses have claimed that he was not commander of guards in Omarska detention camp.
Zivko Piljic and Sveto Petos, former guards in Omarska detention camp who have appeared as Momcilo Gruban's Defence witnesses, said that Simo Drljaca was responsible for the guards and that Gruban was not guard shift commander.

"Momcilo Gruban was reserve policeman. The first time I saw him in Omarska mine was when he was on duty, guarding the administrative building. He was not guard shift commander, because there was no such thing there and we did not give orders to each other," Petos said.

The Prosecution of BiH charges Zeljko Mejakic, Momcilo Gruban, Dusan Fustar and Dusko Knezevic with the rape, murder, torture and beating of Bosniaks and Croats held in Omarska and Keraterm detention camps in 1992.

The indictment alleges that, from May to August 1992, Gruban was one of three guard shift commanders in Omarska.

"When the third guard shift was formed, Gruban was transferred to the radio communications room. I remember that he sometimes brought meals to the guards, and sometimes he would bring food to the prisoners whom he knew," Petos said.

Second Defence witness Zivko Piljic said that Gruban was not guard shift commander and that the indictee never gave him any orders.

"I suppose that Miroslav Kvocka, Zeljko Mejakic and Dragoljub Prcac were the detention camp principals, although I do not know if they were officially appointed. I never reported to anyone, as there was not need for that. So, I do not know, but I think that the investigators made all decisions and Simo Drljaca was their superior," Piljic said.

The Hague tribunal sentenced Kvocka and Prcac to seven and five years' imprisonment respectively for crimes committed in Omarska and Keraterm detention camps. Drljaca, former commander of the Public Safety Centre in Prijedor, was killed during his arrest operation conducted in 1997.

The two Defence witnesses claim that members of police and army safeguarded Omarska detention camp. They said that they did not see any mass murders or beating of detainees.

"Upon my arrival at the detention camp, I saw some beaten and scared detainees, but I did not see anything like that later on. There was no beating during my guard shifts, and I do not believe that people were beaten during other shifts either," Petos said.

"The living conditions were bad for us and the detainees, but maybe they were worse for them as they had to stay together in those rooms," Petos added.

Both witnesses pointed out that they belonged to the same guard shift as Momcilo Gruban.

The trial is due to continue on Wednesday, March 5, when Gruban's Defence will continue examining its witnesses.
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