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13 July 2007
News

Mejakic et al: Horrible Scenes in Keraterm and Omarska

BIRN BiH

One more prosecution witness has spoken of the inhumane treatment of prisoners by guards in Prijedor's camps.

The protected witness, who is a former detainee, has spoken about the maltreatment he survived in detention camps Keraterm and Omarska.

The witness testified under additional protection measures, which means that the public followed the bulk of the trial from a separate room and, during some parts, was excluded completely.

According to the Prosecution, Zeljko Mejakic, Momcilo Gruban, Dusan Fustar and Dusko Knezevic are responsible for crimes committed in both camps.

Witness K015 was taken to Keraterm on 18 June 1992. He claims that guards were beating prisoners very often, and that many did not survive.

"One night they came and told Jovo Radocaj 'Come on Serb'. They beat him and then there was a sound like a ball was banging against the wall. The guards started laughing. Radocaj died that night," the witness recalls.

The witness has said that, during his stay in Keraterm, he "heard" about "Fustar's shift", but he never saw him.

During cross-examination, Dragan Ivetic, Fustar's Defence attorney, claimed that witness K015 had not mentioned his client in his statements given in The Hague in 2000 and to the Prosecution of BiH during the investigation in 2006. The attorney has announced the possibility of inviting this witness to testify because K015 "has changed his statement".

Responding to these allegations, K015 said that everyone knows "who did what" in the camps.

The prosecution charges Fustar - as a commander of one of the three guard shifts in Keraterm detention camp from May to August 1992 - with having "actual responsibility" for the work and behaviour of guards and other persons who visited the detention camp in which about 1,500 people were detained.

Witness K015 was transferred from Keraterm to Omarska on 4 July 1992.

"The guards kicked us while we were getting out of the bus. It lasted for an hour or two, but it seemed like an eternity to us," K015 has said, and added that Gruban, nicknamed Ckalja, was also there "making a list of people at the entrance".

According to the indictment, in 1992 Gruban performed, the function of a commander of one of the three guard shifts in Omarska, where more than 3,000 people were detained.

The witness claims that he also watched beating of prisoners "organised by Zeljko Mejakic".

"The guards formed two lines and the boys they had brought had to pass between the two lines. They were beating them all the time and Mejakic was watching," K015 has said.

The indictment alleges that Mejakic was, from May to August 1992, de facto commander of Omarska detention camp, superior to and responsible for the work of all three guard shifts.

K015 has also testified about the Saint Peter's Eve on 11 July 1992, when, he alleges, "drunk guards set people to fire".

"We could hear horrible screams and I smelled something burning.

People said they were throwing people alive into fire. In the morning I saw traces of burned tyres in the vicinity of 'Bijela kuca'," this witness has said.

K015 was transferred to Manjaca detention camp on 5 August and stayed there until 18 December 1992.

The trial continues on 17 July 2007.
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