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29 January 2008
News

Mejakic et al: Death in Omarska

BIRN BiH
On the second day of his testimony, indictee Zeljko Mejakic speaks about crimes against detainees.
Indictee Zeljko Mejakic, giving testimony as a defence witness for a second day, has admitted that detainees were maltreated and brutally beaten up in Omarska detention camp. Some of them died as a result of their injuries.

Describing the crimes committed in Omarska, Mejakic said that "Simo Drljaca" and "chiefs of investigation services" were the "supreme authorities" in the camp.

"Nobody could leave Omarska detention camp without Simo Drljaca, who was the supreme authority, knowing about it. He also decided on who would be arrested. I must stress that I was one of the managers of the police security service in the camp and I was responsible for informing Drljaca, as my superior, of all incidents that happened there," Mejakic claims.

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

The indictment alleges that Mejakic was commander of Omarska detention camp over a certain period of time.

Drljaca, former commander of the Public Safety Centre in Prijedor, was killed in the course of an arrest operation conducted at the request of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
(ICTY) in 1997.

Mejakic said that three groups of investigators in Omarska detention camp performed the selection of detainees. Originally there were two guard shifts, but "after reserve police forces came," another shift was introduced.

"The detention camp was safeguarded by policemen, members of the Territorial Defence and, for a certain period of time, special police forces. The special police unit possessed two armoured vehicles, equipped with machine guns. When they were in the detention camp, it felt like hell to the detainees," Mejakic said.

Mejakic said that the life conditions in Omarska detention camp were "below any standards" and that the detained Bosniaks and Croats were often beaten up by "groups and individuals", who were "difficult to control".

"The camp was overcrowded. The detainees did not have enough room to sleep. The amount of food was insufficient and it was of poor quality.

It is true that the detainees were beaten up in the course of investigations. It happened that some detainees died soon after being examined," said Mejakic.

Mejakic also said that, "from mid July 1992", "small or large groups" of detained Bosniaks and Croats were taken away and that a group of 15 people "disappeared from the detention camp" in the course of that month.

"The largest number of detainees were taken away on August 6, 1992. On that day about 1,400 people were taken to Manjaca and about 1,700 to Trnopolje. We received the lists of detainees from Prijedor and we distributed them on the basis of those lists," Mejakic said.

He pointed out that "about 30 women" were transferred from Omarska detention camp to Trnopolje on August 3, while five women stayed there until the closure of the camp on August 21, 1992.

The examination of Mejakic is due to continue on Wednesday, January 30.
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