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Prosecutor details Bosnian's alleged atrocities

War Crimes Tribunal begins Tadic trial


May 7, 1996
Web posted at: 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CNN) -- In June 1992, Bosnian Serb Dusan "Dusko" Tadic allegedly entered the Omarska prison camp in northern Bosnia and, according to prosecutors, ordered systematic beatings of prisoners, most of whom died as a result.

Two prisoners reportedly were forced to perform oral sex on the others, Prosecutor Grant Niemann told the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The proceedings began Tuesday with the prosecution's opening statements in the first international war crimes trial since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War II. Niemann described Tadic's alleged atrocities as "events of unspeakable horror." (331K AIFF sound or 331K WAV sound) The trial, likely to take months, may feature more than 100 witnesses.


Defense attorney Michail Wladimiroff, in his opening statements Tuesday, described Tadic as the prosecution's war crimes "scapegoat," and urged the court to give his client a fair trial. (345K AIFF sound or 345K WAV sound) Tadic's three-man, court-appointed defense team plans to claim that his is a case of mistaken identity.

His lawyers said they will call witnesses to testify that Tadic was in the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Banja Luka when the atrocities were committed. On Monday, Tadic proclaimed his innocence.

'Reign of terror'

Tadic is accused of taking part in a reign of terror in 1992 against non-Serbs in the Prijedor region of Bosnia.

Prosecutors allege Tadic helped Serb forces round up thousands of his Moslem and Croat neighbors and herd them into three prison camps -- Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje.

"The evidence will show that he was permitted to enter camps almost at random and to carry out assaults, murders, rapes and sexual assaults on the prisoners he had chosen," Niemann said. "It seems that he was also committed to bring his accomplices with him in order to assist him in his rampage of violence and terror."

Tadic, who is married and has two daughters, appeared tense as Niemann spoke. He is charged with killing and torturing Muslims and Croats in and near the Omarska prison camp in 1992.

Tadic originally was charged with rape in addition to his other alleged crimes, but in the opening minutes of the trial, the court dropped the rape charges at the request of prosecutors, who said the victim was too scared to testify.

Niemann, an Australian, said the Serbian atrocities were aimed at driving Muslims and Croats away and claiming the territory for themselves.


'White house'

As part of his opening statements, Niemann alleged that in July 1992, Tadic and others took prisoners behind the guard house at Omarska -- what prisoners called the "white house." The prisoners were assaulted with baseball bats and rubber sticks, and later were found dead at the site.

"The man who appeared to be in charge was Tadic," Niemann said. "Tadic didn't use any weapons, only his feet in a karate fashion."

presiding judge

On another occasion, prisoners reportedly were forced to drink from puddles of water like dogs, the prosecutor said. They were then jumped and beaten "until they couldn't move." Tadic, Niemann said, forced the nozzle of a fire extinguisher down the mouth of one victim.

Pretrial motions

Presiding Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, a former U.S. federal judge who is one of three judges hearing the case, opened the proceedings at 4 a.m. EST (0800 GMT) by announcing decisions on several pretrial motions submitted by the defense and prosecution.

The tribunal ruled Tuesday that some defense witnesses will be allowed to testify by satellite. Tadic threatened to go on a hunger strike if the request were rejected. Some defense witnesses fear arrest if they travel to The Hague.

Tadic was arrested in Germany in February 1994 after Bosnian refugees identified him as their tormentor. Since then, he has spent more than two years in jail awaiting trial.

Tadic is one of 57 people charged with war crimes by the tribunal but one of only three held in its 24 jail cells. If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Speaking by telephone to Dutch television on Monday, Tadic maintained his innocence.

"Absolute lies have been made about me. The prosecutor has accepted them blindly and not taken the time to investigate a single one of those accusations," he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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