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February 21, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 126

The "Omarska" Camp

by Perica Vucinic

Just as they said that they weren't hungry, the captives claimed that no one beat them, that there was no abuse, and that they weren't afraid that they would be killed. The heap of lies told by the captives and their guards, the guessed at but unproven evil, made "Omarska" a place on the other side of sanity.

The Serbian authorities registered the "Omarska" camp as an ``investigation center'' through which nearly 3,000 people passed. Captured Muslims were first detained in the administrative building of the iron ore mine of the same name, on May 26, 1992 after the first battles in the Podkozarje area. The greatest number of captives were people from the Kozara area and the practically all-Muslim town of Kozarac in the vicinity of Prijedor. Kozarac was razed to the ground, while its inhabitants were detained in "Omarska," the halls of the "Keraterm" factory in Prijedor, and the village cultural center in Trnopolje.

Only those horrors that the authorities chose to show could be seen at "Omarska." A picture remains of two army friends--one a guard and the other a captive. The soldier, who thanks to politics and ethnic antecedents was made a guard, brags that sentimentality and an erstwhile friendship will not deter him from doing his job properly. ``He is thin, because his faith does not allow him to eat pork. He stinks, his house stinks like that too,'' said the guard, pointing his rifle at his former comrade. The ``circumstances'' called for inhuman behavior.

At the time, international politics focused sharply on Serb camps and called for the dismantling of  "Omarska." A part of the detainees were sent to the military camp in Manjaca, others to Trnopolje which really became a "center for collecting'' Muslims and Croats from the Prijedor region who did not dare sleep at home. The story of "Omarska" started from Trnopolje, with all the horrors of starvation, thirst, death by beating and other imaginative ways of destroying human beings. Camp statistics in the territory of the former Yugoslavia are not complete yet. Estimates are too full of emotions, and therefore differ. The number of dead in "Omarska" range from 150 to 1,500.

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