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Testifying at Radovan Karadzic’s trial, Zeljko Mejakic says that members of “paramilitary and criminal groups” committed crimes in Omarska detention camp, near Prijedor, in the summer of 1992, but those were “individual” cases, which were not planned.
Mejakic, who testified in defence of Karadzic, said that the majority of 3,400 Muslims, who were detained in “the collection and investigation center” in Omarska, were suspected of having participated in combat against Serb forces as extremists.
After having been examined, half of them were transferred to a detention camp for prisoners of war at Manjaca, while the other half was “released” thought “the reception centre” in nearby Trnopolje.
The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina sentenced Mejakic, former Chief of police security in Omarska, under a second instance verdict, to 21 years in prison for unlawful detention under inhumane conditions, murders, torture, sexual abuse, persecution and other crimes against detainees.
Karadzic, the then President of Republika Srpska, is charged with genocide in seven municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including Prijedor.
Mejakic said that the crimes in Omarska were not planned and that nobody ordered the murders, rape or persecution, adding that individuals, most of whom were members of paramilitary forces and criminal groups, were responsible for them. Police was not able to prevent them from coming.
He said that, in some cases members of security service committed crimes as well.
“At that time no measures were undertaken to determine their responsibility or bring them to justice,” Mejakic said.
The Prosecution presented Mejakic with the fact that more than 300 people were last seen in Omarska and that their bodies were exhumed from mass graves later.
While not denying that, Mejakic suggested that the security service in Omarska was not responsible for those crimes, because Muslims prisoners were taken out of the detention camp and killed at other locations.
“Many were last seen alive in Omarska. They left the camp without any trace. In my opinion, associating their death with Omarska is unjustified,” the witness said, adding that he had never denied that murders were committed in that facility.
Mejakic confirmed that detainees were held in inadequate conditions in Omarska, that there was not enough food and that they were beaten up, some of them to death, during examinations that took place every day.
The trial of Karadzic is due to continue next week.