Prijedor - Kozarac (Serb held concentration camps 1992)

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As non-Serbs were attacked in the villages and Prijedor town, hundreds, possibly thousands, were killed in their home areas, frequently after maltreatment. The survivors who temporarily managed to flee or hide were divided. Females, boys under the age of sixteen (sometimes the age limit may have been lower) and elderly men (older than 60 or 65) made up one group, while the other men comprised the second group.

The second group - the men - were taken to hastily opened concentration camps in a ceramic tile factory, Keraterm, next to Prijedor town and on the premises of the iron ore mine and processing plant at Omarska. Massacres, torture, and appalling living conditions quickly depleted the number of detainees.

In an interview of Simo Drljaca (Chief of the Serbian secret police in Prijedor), he stated that:

«In the collection centres 'Omarska', 'Keraterm', and 'Trnopolje' more than 6,000 informative talks were held. Of this number 1,503 Bosniaks and Croats were sent to the camp 'Manjaca', on the basis of solid documentation of active participation in the fighting against the Army of Republica Srpska, and also participation in genocide against the Serbian people. Instead of letting them get their deserved punishment, the powerful men of the world expressing disdain forced us to release them all from Manjaca.»

As the «informative talks» or interrogations basically took place in the Omarska and Keraterm camps, it can be concluded that more than 6,000 adult males were taken to these concentration camps in the short period they existed (from the end of May to the beginning of August 1992). Since only 1,503 were moved on to Manjaca camp according to Mr. Drljaca, a limited number transferred to the Trnopolje camp, and almost none released, it may be assumed that the death toll was extremely high, even by Serbian accounts. The concentration camp premises were sometimes so packed with people that no more inmates could be crammed in. On at least one occasion, this allegedly resulted in an entire bus-load of newly captured people being arbitrarily executed en masse. Some 37 women were detained in Omarska, whilst no women were kept over time in Keraterm.

The women's groups (almost all the females, the boys under the age of sixteen and the elderly men) were normally taken to the Trnopolje camp. Here the regime was far better than in Omarska and Keraterm; none the less harassment and malnutrition was a problem for all the inmates. Rapes, beatings and other kinds of torture and even killings were not rare. Some of these detained women were released after a few days as there was a lack of space in the Trnopolje camp as well.

On their way to the concentration camps, some captives were detained for shorter periods at improvised detention facilities such as sports halls in schools and stadiums (notably in the Prijedor suburb of Tukovi, and in Ljubija).

As soon as the Serbs had captured the first groups of non- Serbs, the large-scale deportations of the women's group started. Some were deported straight from the improvised detention facilities, the majority from the Trnopolje camp. The majority of deportees were cramped into buses or onto military trucks and sent towards Travnik. These deportees had to walk almost 30 kilometres from where the trucks and buses dumped them in a desolate area on the outskirts of the Vlasic Mountain, to reach non-Serbian-held areas in central BiH. A few were deported the safer way to Bosanska Gradiska. Sizable numbers were taken by rail - many in cattle wagons - to Travnik, some were let off the trains in Doboj from where they were ushered ahead on foot in the direction of Tuzla. Some individuals perished during the transport due to the mid-summer heat and next to suffocating conditions both in cattle wagons and on closed military trucks where the deportees were also deprived of food and water.