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4 February 2008

Mejakic et all: Crazy times

Zeljko Mejakic spoke of the involvement of paramilitary groups in the beating of detainees at the Omarska detention camp, in his fourth day of testimony.
During cross-examination, Mejakic, who testified as a Defence witness, spoke about his responsibilities as a manager for "police security" and the tasks performed by policemen and paramilitary groups in the mistreatment of Bosniaks and Croats held at Omarska.


"There were four paramilitary groups that used to come to the detention camp and ask for specific people. After that, they would beat them up or steal their valuables. We called them the parachutists. When they came, the detention camp looked like a fools' house. Had the guards used their weapons and killed some of them, there would be no witnesses and indictees here today. Those were crazy times," Mejakic said.


The Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina has charged Mejakic, Momcilo Gruban, Dusan Fustar and Dusko Knezevic with committing rape, murder, torture and beating Bosniaks and Croats imprisoned in the Omarska and Keraterm detention camps during 1992.


According to Mejakic, the police were tasked with "preventing eventual attacks against prisoners and their escape" from the Omarska detention camp, but it could not protect them from being beaten during interrogation.


"I instructed the policemen in the detention camp to treat the prisoners in a correct manner, to refrain from taking their valuables and to treat them as humans. I must stress that it was impossible for the policemen to protect prisoners from the investigators and groups who used to visit the detention camp," Mejakic said.


The cross-examination lasted more than five hours, during which Mejakic repeated that he frequently visited the detention camp, as one of the police security managers, and spoke to prisoners, who were held "in very bad conditions".


"I frequently went to see and speak to the guards and detainees whom I knew. I know that the "Bijela kuca" ("White House") was overcrowded and that the detainees were filthy and unshaved, they did not have haircuts, and most had visible injuries," Mejakic recalled.


He claimed there were no commanders or chiefs of guard posts at Omarska but there was a group of policemen whose office was located in the Administrative Building and whose competencies were different from those of guards.


"They were in charge of radio communications. In the event that the police security manager was not around, they used to meet new prisoners and check on the guards. Momo Gruban was a member of that group. He performed his job in a proper way and prisoners respected him, because he knew many of them," Mejakic said.


The indictment alleges that Gruban, also known as Ckalja or Momo, was one of the three guard shift commanders in Omarska detention camp in 1992.


Once again Mejakic asserted he submitted official documentation to Simo Drljaca, the Commander of the Public Safety Centre in the northern town of Prijedor, concerning all incidents that happened at the detention camp. Drljaca was killed during an arrest operation in 1997.


In the course of Mejakic's examination, the Trial Chamber and the four Defence teams noticed that Prosecutor Peter Kidd asked "unclear and hypothetical questions". Some of them also touched on issues that cannot be addressed during cross-examination and were therefore in breach of legal regulations.


The cross-examination of Zeljko Mejakic is due to continue on Tuesday February 5.

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