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War Crimes Trials
Many of the people who committed crimes in Prijedor—and many more who benefited from those crimes—remain at large. The effort to bring justice to Prijedor continues.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, or ICTY, was established in 1993 by a U.N. Security Council resolution. Located at The Hague in the Netherlands, the ICTY was established to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the wars following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. The ICTY has been credited with documenting the extent of war crimes and with convicting many perpetrators. It has also been criticized for handing out short prison sentences and for letting many perpetrators go free.
Following are summaries of the ICTY’s proceedings for five of the principal war criminals in Prijedor.
Dusko Tadic: Tadic was indicted in 1995 for crimes committed in 1992 at Omarska, Keraterm, and Trnopolje. His actions in these camps were considered especially cruel and included beatings and rape. (Rape charges were dropped because of witnesses’ fear of testifying.) He was also accused of forcing prisoners to sexually mutilate one another.
On 7 May 1997, Tadic became the first person to be convicted of war crimes since the war crimes trials of Word War II. According to an ICTY case information sheet, Tadic was found guilty of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war.
Simo Drljaca: Simo Drljaca was the police chief of Prijedor after the Serbs took control on 30 April 1992. The ICTY indicted him for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. He was killed resisting arrest by NATO forces in Prijedor on 10 July 1997.
Zeljko Mejakic: Zeljko Mejakic was the commander of the Omarska concentration camp, where he presided over interrogations. He also presided over killings, severe beatings, and sexual assaults. He was responsible for the generally brutal living conditions imposed on the prisoners.
Mejakic was brought to the ICTY on 4 July 2003. On 7 July 2003, he pleaded “not guilty” to all counts of his indictment. His case was referred to the state court of Bosnia-Herzegovina on 9 May 2006. Today, Mejakic is still awaiting trial.
Milomir Stakic: As President of the Crisis Staff and Head of the Municipal Council for National Defense, Milomir Stakic, according to an ICTY Case Information Sheet, “instigated the military attacks which began in May 1992 on locations in Prijedor municipality inhabited principally by Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats. The Prijedor Crisis Staff cooperated with and thereby aided and abetted the Bosnian Serb Army” in its attacks on non-Serbs. Stakic played a pivotal role in “a campaign designed to destroy Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats . . . as national, ethnical, racial, or religious groups, in Prijedor municipality.”
Stakic was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. On 31 July 2003, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. The sentence was later reduced to forty years’ imprisonment.
Zoran Zigic: Zigic was indicted for violations of the laws or customs of war which included murder, torture, and cruel treatment. He was also indicted for crimes against humanity and for persecuting non-Serbs on political, racial and/or religious grounds.
Zigic surrendered voluntarily on16 April 1998 and was transferred to the ICTY. On 20 April 1998, he pleaded "not guilty" to all counts of his indictment. On 2 November 2001, he was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment.