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Criminal Processing in Prijedor Detention Camps

18. February 2014.00:00
Former police officer from Prijedor Dusan Jankovic says, testifying at Radovan Karadzic’s trial, that Bosniak detainees were not subjected to crimes in the “Omarska and Keraterm reception centres” in 1992.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

Former police officer from Prijedor Dusan Jankovic says, testifying at Radovan Karadzic’s trial, that Bosniak detainees were not subjected to crimes in the “Omarska and Keraterm reception centres” in 1992.

Jankovic said that, following an attack by Muslim paramilitary forces on Serb soldiers, prisoners, who were held in Omarska and Keraterm, were subjected to “criminal processing”, not crimes. “Those, who were guilty of the attack, had a criminal responsibility, while those, who were not, were released to liberty,” he said.

When asked by Karadzic what he knew about “uncommon events in Keraterm” at that time, Jankovic, who said that he was in charge of logistics with Prijedor police in 1992, said: “I heard that an uprising of detainees happened and that those people were killed”.

According to the indictment, which charges Karadzic with the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, BiH, grave crimes were committed against detainees in detention camps, near Prijedor. The crimes included mass murders, torture, beating and sexual violence. The indictment alleges that Serb forces killed about 150 detainees in Keraterm in June 1992. Prijedor is one of the seven municipalities, where the persecution reached the scale of genocide.

Jankovic denied having been responsible for the massacre at Koricanske Stijene in the summer of 1992 for which the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina sentenced him to 21 years in prison. According to the charges against Karadzic, Serb policemen killed 200 Bosniaks at Koricanske Stijene on Mount Vlasic on August 21, 1992.

The witness denied having been present at Koricanske Stijene and having spoken to Darko Mrdja, leader of the perpetrators, prior to the crime. The Hague Tribunal sentenced Mrdja to 17 years in prison after he had admitted guilt.

According to Jankovic’s testimony, the Bosnian State Court sentenced him on the basis of testimonies by “false witnesses”, who lied either because they wanted to avoid being indicted or to get shorter sentences after having admitted guilt. “The Prosecution wrote both questions and answers, which the witnesses repeated,” he said, claiming that “those, who committed the crime, have still not been sentenced. They are still freely walking the streets in Prijedor”.

When asked by presiding judge O-Gon Kwon if that meant that he knew who the perpetrators were, Jankovic said: “I do not know. I do not have evidence, but I supposed who they might be…You should look for the perpetrators among the protected witnesses, who were among the escorts, but have not been criminally processed”.

Claiming that he was “falsely accused and unfairly sentenced”, Jankovic offered an alibi, saying that he attended a religious holiday celebration far away from Koricanske Stijene on the day the crime was committed.

During the cross-examination Prosecutor Catrina Gustafsson said that Jankovic was not only a logistics officer, but also Deputy Chief of Prijedor police, in 1992, when the crimes were committed, but the witness denied the allegation.

The Prosecutor said that Prijedor police did not undertake any investigation into the shooting of Bosniaks in Keraterm. The witness suggested that it should have been done by the Safety Services Centre in Banja Luka or the Republika Srpska Army.

The Prosecutor presented the witness with the fact that no investigation was conducted after the Koricanske Stijene massacre either, but the perpetrators were ordered to go back to the crime scene and evacuate the victims’ bodies from a hardly-accessible pit. Jankovic said that he did not know who ordered that.

He told the Tribunal that it was not possible to arrest the perpetrators and that “a compromise” was made to send members of the Police Interventions Unit to “a battlefield, so nobody knew whether they would survive or not,” and “criminally process them after the war”.

The trial of Karadzic, who is also charged with genocide in Srebrenica, crimes in Sarajevo and taking UNPROFOR members hostage, is due to continue on Wednesday, February 19.

Radoša Milutinović

This post is also available in: Bosnian