|By Erna MACKIC: This year was also significant for international cooperation in the judiciary area, especially since Bosnia and Herzegovinaâ€™s Ministry of Justice and the Ministries of neighbouring countries modified the Agreement on the Execution of Criminal Sanctions. In this case, if a sentenced person escapes to one of these countries, and has citizenship of that state, the person should serve their imposed prison sentence there.
In its sixth year of operation, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina Chamber for War Crimes sentenced 15 persons to a total of 156 years in prison, and acquitted seven, while the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina claims that they are also investigating one thousand suspects over war crimes offences.
This year, the judicial institutions were confronted with the escape of two persons. Dusan Jankovic, who has been sentenced by a first-instance verdict to 27 yearsâ€™ imprisonment for the crimes at Koricanske stijene, escaped on 21 December, while Momir Savic, who was sentenced by a first-instance verdict to 17 years imprisonment for crimes in Visegrad, escaped in mid-May.
According the decision of the Court, both were waiting for the verdicts while at liberty with a series of restrictive measures, which prompted public criticism of this institution.
The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina point out that questioning of their work is â€œextremely inappropriate and superficialâ€, given the results they have achieved in the past.
In 2010, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina issued a total of 23 verdicts for war crimes, among which seven were first-instance verdicts. According to these verdicts, 13 persons were convicted to a total of 226 years in prison for crimes committed in Srebrenica, Vlasenica, Bosanska Krajina, Konjic, Sarajevo and Koricanske stijene (municipality of Travnik).
Milorad Barasin, Chief Prosecutor of the Prosecutorâ€™s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina described this year as â€œthe most successfulâ€ when it comes to war crimes.
â€œI can be satisfied with what has been done so far. In total, we raised 113 indictments, and only this year we raised about 30, and I think that this year is the most successful in terms of the Special Department for War Crimesâ€, said Barasin for Justice Report, adding that investigations are currently being conducted against about 1,000 suspects.
This year was also significant for international cooperation in the judiciary area, especially since Bosnia and Herzegovinaâ€™s Ministry of Justice and the Ministries of neighbouring countries modified the Agreement on the Execution of Criminal Sanctions. In this case, if a sentenced person escapes to one of these countries, and has citizenship of that state, the person should serve their imposed prison sentence there.
In accordance with that agreement, the Court accepted the Croatian court verdict against Branimir Glavas, who comes from Croatia, and sent him to serve his eight-year sentence in Zenicaâ€™s Department of Corrections. Glavas, who is convicted for crimes in Croatia, fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina after the verdict.
Arrests, extraditions, admissions
During 2010, the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina issued an arrest warrant for 11 persons because of reasonable suspicion that they have committed war crimes, and Veselin Vlahovic, also called Batko, who is suspected of crimes committed in the Sarajevo suburbs of Vrace and Grbavica, was extradited from Spain.
In August 2010, Vlahovic was handed over to the judiciary authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina ordered his detention, which is still in place. The investigation for war crimes against Vlahovic is still ongoing, and the Prosecutorâ€™s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina has called witnesses through the media to respond and give evidence.
The Prosecutorâ€™s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina suspects Vlahovic of participating in the murders, abuses, lootings, rapes and forced disappearances of Bosniaks and Croats from the Sarajevo suburb of Grbavica through 1992 and 1993.
Franc Kos, who was arrested in Croatia, was also extradited to the BiH judicial authorities and the Prosecutorâ€™s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina has indicted him for genocide in Srebrenica.
Along with Kos, Stanko Kojic, Vlastimir Golijan and Zoran Goronja are also indicted for the genocide in Srebrenica, and their trial will began in December this year. Dusko Tomic, Kosâ€™s attorney, has repeatedly said that the accused do not deny their involvement in the shooting of Srebrenica citizens, but does not accept that they committed genocide.
In his first appearance before the Chamber for War Crimes, Vlastimir Golijan gave a similar statement and plead quilty by saying ”I’m guilty.”
However, when he came before the Trial Chamber, which would consider Golijansâ€™s guilt, the indictee said that he does not understand the meaning of the crime for which he has been indicted.
â€œI do not understand what genocide is. The lawyer told me, but I do not know what genocide is. (…) I admit that on July 16, I participated in the killings of civilians in the area of Branjevo and I feel sorry for those people,â€ said Golijan.
In 2010, the Prosecutorâ€™s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina indicted 46 people, some of which are indicted for commanding responsibility, and the others as direct perpetrators of war crimes.
Novak Djukic was sentenced to 25 yearsâ€™ of imprisonment for commanding responsibility for the shelling of Tuzla in May 1995.
Milos Stupar, who is also charged with commanding responsibility, was acquitted of participating in the commission of genocide in July 1995 in Srebrenica.
According to the explanation of the verdict, Stupar did not have effective control over members of the Second Special Police Squad from Sekovici because he was not with them until July 14, 1995, so he could not take responsibility for previously committed acts.
By the first instance verdict of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina rendered in July 2008, Stupar was sentenced to 40 years of imprisonment but after the appeal was lodged, the verdict has been abolished and a new trial being held held.
In 2010, the Prosecutorâ€™s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the first time required a punishment for an accused person who refuses to testify in another investigation. Djordjislav Askraba, who was under a first-instance verdict acquitted of crimes committed in Kalinovik, refused to give testimony in another investigation. We could not find out the decision of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding this because they claim that it is a â€œconfidential documentâ€.
What also marked 2010 is five plea agreements between the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina and war crimes indictees, which were accepted by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina and brought down the sentences. Two agreements that were reached relate to crimes committed in Srebrenica.
By acceptance of guilt, Marko Boskic was sentenced to ten years in prison for participating in the execution of hundreds of men from Srebrenica, while Milivoje Cirkovic was sentenced to five years for crimes against humanity in Srebrenica.
Separation and suspension of proceedings
The trials before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina are currently ongoing for six indictees for crimes committed against Croats in Trusina (Konjic municipality), including Zulfikar Alispago, Commander of the Zulfikar Special Purposes Squad with the Main Command Headquarters of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Nihad Bojadzic, his deputy.
On December 21, the trial for crimes in Trusina village (municipality of Konjic), was postponed for several weeks because a Court expert, a neurosurgeon, assesed that Alispago suffered from a severe spinal disease, adding he was not able to follow or actively participate in the trial at this moment due to pain.
Due to the illness of the accused, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina discontinued proceedings against Vinko Kondic, a former commander of the Public Security Station in Kljuc, and released him from custody. In September, the Trial Chamber separated Kondicâ€™s case from the case against Lukic and Adamovic.
â€œOn the recommendation of the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina, criminal proceedings will continue when the health of the accused improves to the extent that he can participate in the proceedingsâ€, it is stated in the decision of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The same decision was made at the retrial for crimes in East Herzegovina due to the health conditions of Milko Mucibabic, who was sentenced by a first-instance verdict to five years and three monthsâ€™ imprisonment.
Along with Mucibabic, Krsto Savic, who was sentenced by the first instance verdict to 20 years in prison for his role in atrocities committed in Gacko, Bileca, Nevesinje and Kalinovik, is also on trial. The Appellate Chamber revoked this verdict and ordered a retrial which began in November.
Seven employees of the Focaâ€™s Department of Corrections are awaiting the beginning of their retrial before the Appellate Panel. Under first instance verdicts they were acquitted of charges of aiding the escape of Radovan Stankovic, who is convicted of war crimes.
The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina sentenced his brother, Ranko Stankovic to two yearsâ€™ imprisonment for helping his escape, while Ranka Dragicevic and Brankica Davidovic pleaded guilty and were sentenced with a probationary period of six months.
In April 2007, Radovan Stankovic was sentenced to 20 yearsâ€™ imprisonment for crimes against humanity in Foca, but he escaped one month after he was sent to serve the sentence. Three years later, the prosecution authorities have no information on his whereabouts.
The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina also informed that three men convicted of war crimes were prematurely released from prison. Pasko Ljubicic, who has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for crimes committed in the Vitez area was released because he served two-thirds of his sentence.
Mitar Rasevic, who was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment in Focaâ€™s Department of Corrections for crimes against humanity, and Dusan Fustar, who has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years for crimes in the Keraterm camp in Prijedor were also released.
Autor is a journalist with BIRN â€“ Justice Report. [email protected] Justice Report is one of BIRN’s weekly online publications