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11 December 2007
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Mejakic et al: Mushrooming of Detention Camps

Zeljko Mejakic's Defence claims he was not a camp commander, and that detention camps in Prijedor were established because of "what was happening in the field".
The Defence teams of the four indictees charged with crimes committed in Omarska and Keraterm detention camps have begun their evidence presentation process by presenting introductory arguments.

Jovan Simic, attorney of key indictee Zeljko Mejakic, pointed out that "both Bosniaks and Serbs were getting weapons" in 1992 and that they "are equally responsible for the crimes committed on the territory of Prijedor". Simic also said that his client was neither the commander of Omarska detention camp nor superior to guards and investigators.

"We do not intend to deny the existence of detention camps and crimes, but we do want to say that Zeljko Mejakic was not the detention camp commander or chief of security and he did not have any competencies in terms of food supplies, water or medical aid. We shall present evidence and try to determine the exact number of victims, identify the perpetrators and establish who were the superiors in this chain of events," Simic told the Trial Chamber.

The indictment alleges that, from May 24 to August 30, 1992 Mejakic was chief of security and commander of Omarska detention camp and that he "controlled the work and behaviour of all guards and other persons who used to visit the detention camp".

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

Attorney Simic mentioned that Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje detention camps "mushroomed" and that Bosniaks and Serbs spoke the same "language of hatred and armed themselves".

"Both sides are responsible, because it takes two to start a quarrel or fight. The establishment of the detention camps was not a part of a plan made by the Serbian political leaders, but rather a response to what was happening in the field," said Simic.

In his introductory arguments, Simic also reiterated that, on April 30, 1992, the Serbs took charge of Prijedor and that "a few lunatics took the power in their hands and started plundering the city".

"Keraterm was the first detention camp and this is where an investigation group was formed to examine the prisoners and determine who was innocent and who participated in the fights. At that point women and children were transferred to Trnopolje. On May 28 or 29, 1992, at the request of the Crisis Committee, Omarska detention camp was established as the existing capacities in Keraterm were no longer sufficient," said Simic.

"I must stress that Mejakic is a hard-working and diligent man, but he is not stupid. He was never decorated and he was never a member of any party," Simic said.

"We shall strive to prove the truth, and I hope that the court will have the courage to stick with us in pursuing of our wish. Finally, it is necessary to put all these things in the right place," Simic concluded.

Momcilo Gruban's defence will present its introductory arguments at a later stage, because Vinko Kondic, one of the two attorneys who prepared the introductory arguments, was arrested recently due to suspicion that he committed crimes in Kljuc.

Dusan Fustar's defence will present its introductory arguments just before the evidence presentation process starts. Those arguments "will refer to the indictee alone".

Nebojsa Pantic, defence attorney of Dusko Knezevic, said that he would base the defence on material evidence, which would prove that his client was mixed up with somebody else. He also said he agreed with the introductory remarks presented by attorney Simic.

The trial is due to continue on December 18, 2007.
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