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Serbian Guards Executed Prisoners, Survivor Says

August 05, 1992|ROY GUTMAN | NEWSDAY

ZAGREB, Croatia — Serbian guards at the Omarska concentration camp in Bosnia-Herzegovina daily executed Muslim and Croatian prisoners selected from the thousands being held in at least three locations in the sprawling former mining complex, according to an interview with a survivor Tuesday.

Guards selected seven or eight victims at random each night using a flashlight in a darkened warehouse where 600 to 700 prisoners were packed together, the 53-year-old Muslim camp survivor said. He asked to be identified only as "Hujca."

"The next morning, they were not there," he said. Guards returned the next day to select a team of young men to bury the dead. Some of them had been shot through the mouth, while others had had their throats slit, Hujca said. He did not witness the killings himself. On one occasion, he saw eight corpses covered with blankets. On other days, members of the burial crew told him what they had seen.

Hujca's narrative, along with a new indirect account obtained Tuesday about prisoners kept in an outdoor pit at Omarska, added grisly new details to eyewitness accounts published by Newsday on Sunday. Newsday described allegations of thousands of deaths at the Omarska iron mining complex and at a separate camp in Brcko in northeast Bosnia.

The new disclosures added to an emerging picture of the Omarska camp and of what international human rights agencies fear may be slaughter on a huge scale. The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday night demanded that all prison camps in the region be opened for impartial international inspection.

Serbian officials in Bosnia have denied that any civilians are being held in prison camps.

Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic, who presides over a government that now consists only of Serbia and Montenegro, acknowledges that prison camps are being maintained. He has said that he cannot confirm or deny the existence of death camps and favors the closing of camps by all sides.

In the interview, Hujca said he was held in a warehouse for 12 days in May, jammed into a room packed so tightly that no one could lie down to sleep.

He had been a fighter with the Bosnian defense force, but he disposed of his submachine gun and was not detected when he joined townspeople from Kozarac, a town in northwest Bosnia conquered by Serbian forces in May. But thousands of civilians were detained by Serbian units, and all of them ended up at Omarska.

Hujca was held in Omarska during the same period as another survivor named "Meho," whose account Newsday described Sunday.

Both men said that 8,000 prisoners--most but not all of them men--were held at the time. The Bosnian government estimates that there are now 11,000 prisoners there.

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