Dusko Tadic, aged 28, a former restaurant owner in Kozarac, could be the first person to be tried by the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. The tribunal of 11 judges will hear evidence from a prosecutor backed by a team of lawyers and investigators.
It is the first time since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after the Second World War that such a panel has been empowered, although it does not have the power to impose the death penalty on convicted war criminals. Many of those accused of gross human rights abuses in the former Yugoslavia are expected to escape prosecution by remaining in Serbian jurisdiction, beyond the reach of the UN Security Council.
Mr Tadic, who was arrested by a commando unit in Bavaria on Saturday, is associated with the Omarska prison camp in Bosnia. It was located in a converted mine and was discovered by the foreign press in the summer of 1992.
At the time it contained more than 2,000 mainly Muslim men and about 38 women. Omarska appears to have been the most brutal of the Serbian camps. Helsinki Watch, the New York-based human rights group, said in a recent report* that almost all the detainees it interviewed at the camp 'claimed that they had been bestially beaten, that scores had died from the beatings and that some were executed'.
Interviewed in the presence of a guard, one prisoner told a human rights worker: 'There are no sick people here. When someone gets sick, he is shot immediately . . . 500 have been killed in this camp.'
In the summer of 1992 Mr Tadic, who was nicknamed 'Dule', had permanent access to the camp, according to the German authorities. The federal prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe said that he 'and several others accompanying him ill-treated more than 150 prisoners'.
The Helsinki Watch report which has been sent to the War Crimes Tribunal goes into more detail. Several of the detainees interviewed claimed to have witnessed the castration of men while looking from different vantage points (a bathroom keyhole, from a window and from inside a warehouse).
One victim mentioned by all of them is Jasmin Hrnic. Witnesses also agree that the order to castrate men was issued by Dusko Tadic late one mid-July evening in 1992. 'All claim that another prisoner - a youth - was taken from a separate room and ordered to bite the penis off Jasmin Hrnic. Some allege that Hrnic was subsequently castrated by Tadic,' Helsinki Watch said.
Senior UN sources said yesterday that they expected Mr Tadic to face trial once the war crimes prosecutor had issued an indictment and convinced one of the 11 judges to order his prosecution. The tribunal is only now getting established and an Australian, Graham Blewitt, is to begin work on Thursday as temporary prosecutor. A war crimes expert, Mr Blewitt was director of a special Second World War unit set up in 1987 in Australia.
In The Hague he will be leading an investigation into some 50,000 complaints by all sides in the conflict. The Bosnian government has named more than 5,000 alleged war criminals, assembled evidence of 42 alleged mass murders and located the sites of what it says are 20 mass graves. Similar claims are produced by the Serbs and the Croats.
*War Crimes in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Vol II
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