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18 February 2008
News

Mejakic et al: Sporadic and Limited Aid

Defence witnesses speak about the poor quality of food and medical assistance provided to detainees in Omarska detention camp.
Pero Rendic and Mirko Kobas, Defence witnesses of Zeljko Mejakic and Dusko Knezevic, have spoken of the "extremely bad" food that was distributed to Bosniaks and Croats in Omarska detention camp, as well as about the "limited" medical aid provided for sick detainees.

"Simo Drljaca ordered us to go to Omarska detention camp, as people had problems with some contagious disease. As we entered the detention camp area, everything seemed so quiet and peaceful, and we saw some dirty and uncombed people. I remember that the rooms in which they stayed were very stinky," Mirko Kobas said. He came to Omarska detention camp, as medical technician, in mid July 1992.

The Prosecution of BiH charges Zeljko Mejakic, Momcilo Gruban, Dusan Fustar and Dusko Knezevic with the murder, rape, torture and beating of Bosniaks and Croats detained in Omarska and Keraterm detention camp in 1992. Simo Drljaca was a former commander of the Public Safety Centre in Prijedor, and was killed during an arrest operation in July 1997.

"We gave anti-diarrhoea pills to some people in the camp, and some had lice, wounds and cuts. I cannot remember seeing any infected wounds there, but I must point out that we provided sporadic aid to the detainees. We did not invest much effort in treating them, as Drljaca told us that our task was to clean the rooms," Kobas said.

The witness also stressed that the rooms, in which Bosniaks and Croats were detained, "were stinky, due to high temperatures and the fact that the detainees did not bathe".

Second Defence witness Pero Rendic claims to have worked in the camp's kitchen, where they prepared food for "prisoners and investigators, as well as police and army members".

"When I first came to the kitchen, I was surprised to see that there was plenty of food there. However, the supplies disappeared fast, as we prepared meals for a large number of people. The first detainees were brought to Omarska on May 27 or 28, and they were given cans and bread, and, on the same day, we prepared some cooked meals for them," witness Rendic said.

According to this witness, detainees used to get one meal, "cooked cabbage or potatoes", per day. He added that, due to lack of flour, they had to cut bread loafs "into eight pieces".

"Nobody could have done anything about the quality of the food, as we did not have any more supplies. Prior to the arrival of the detainees, we used to prepare 800 to 1,000 meals per day. The number was much higher later on," Rendic said.

As he was entering the courtroom, Rendic waved to Mejakic. He said he had known him from before. After his testimony, he asked if he could "shake hands with those people, as he had not seen them for a long time". The Trial Chamber did not let him do it.

Knezevic's Defence did not have any questions for the witnesses.

The trial is due to continue on Tuesday, February 19.
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