Verdict after appeal

Crime in Zamlača, Struga and Kozibrod II

On 8 June 2009, the main hearing was held at the Sisak County Court in the trial against the defendant Predrag Orlović et al., charged with committing the criminal act of war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the Basic Criminal Law of the RoC (hereinafter: the OKZ RH).

Following the separation of the procedure in relation to the defendants Simo Gaić, Đorđe Borojević and Zoran Tadić and the modification of the indictment (re-qualification to armed rebellion) in relation to the three of them, a verdict was passed which rejected the indictment by way of applying the General Amnesty Act.

INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The defendants were charged that on 26 July 1991 in the villages of Zamlača, Struga and Kozibrod, having previously joined the paramilitary formations of the so-called “Krajina Militia”, all armed with heavy weaponry and with the intention of subverting the newly-established democratic society of the RoC, attempting to secede the area of Kostajnica and Dvor municipalities from the RoC and join them to the para-state of the so-called “SAO Krajina”, they entered the aforementioned villages, expelled the population from those villages, exclusively of the Croatian ethnicity, brought this population in front of themselves as the living shield, burned the houses and demolished them by explosive devices and then, unprovoked, they fired rifle shots at the unarmed population, whereby they murdered numerous civilians.

You can read the indictment issued by the Sisak District State’s Attorney’s Office (hereinafter: the ŽDO) No. KT-61/93 of 4 November 1994 against Predrag Orlović et al. here (2.523 KB). (in Croatian)
GENERAL DATA

Sisak County Court

War Crime Council: Judge Melita Avedić, Council President; Judge Predrag Jovanić, Council member and Judge Višnja Vukić, Council member

Case number: K-45/94

Indictment: issued by the Sisak ŽDO, No. KT-61/93 of 4 November 1994, modified on 8 June 2009

Criminal act: war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH; following the separation of the procedure in relation to the defendants Simo Gaić, Đorđe Borojević and Zoran Tadić it was modified (in relation to the three of them) to the criminal act of armed rebellion referred to in Article 236 f, paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code of the RoC (hereinafter: the KZRH).

Prosecuting attorney: Jadranka Huskić, Sisak County Deputy State’s Attorney

Defendants: the 1st defendant Predrag Orlović, the 2nd defendant Milan Begović, the 3rd defendant Nedjeljko Pašić, the 4th defendant Predrag Korizma, the 5th defendant Nenad Korizma, the 6th defendant Leonardo Janković, the 7th defendant Toše Sundać, the 8th defendant Drago Kladar, the 9th defendant Dubravko Kovačević, the 10th defendant Dragan Vranešević, the 11th defendant Đuro Đurić (indictment against him was rejected in February 2009 following the re-qualification of the criminal act to armed rebellion), the 12th defendant Slavko Tadić, the 13th defendant Mirko Tomašević, the 14th defendant Nikola Borčić, the 15th defendant Goran Barač, the 16th defendant Mile Sundać, the 17th defendant Dušan Badić, the 18th defendant Dalibor Borota, the 19th defendant Jan Janković, the 20th defendant Nikola Sundać, the 21st defendant Rade Tintor, the 22nd defendant Rade Lukač, the 23rd defendant Matija Cvetojević, the 24th defendant Mirko Drač, the 25th defendant Simo Gaić, the 26th defendant Milan Joke, the 27th defendant Mustafa Kadunić, the 28th defendant Sebastian Sanela, the 29th defendant Pero Krneta, the 30th defendant Željko Žilić, the 31st defendant Nikola Krnjeta, the 32nd defendant Jovo Akika, the 33rd defendant Đorđe Borojević, the 34th defendant Zoran Tadić, the 35th defendant Dušan Tomašević

Defence counsels: Dijana Brezak, defence counsel of the 33rd defendant Đorđe Borojević, Zdravko Baburak, defence counsel of the 25th defendant Simo Gaić and Zrinka Grabas, defence counsel of the 34th defendant Zoran Tadić

Victims – killed civilians: Mile Blažević, Pajo Žuljevac, Pajo Knežević, Mile Begić, Mile Pušić, Manda Begić, Pero Špančić, Milan Bartolović, Žarko Gundić, Goran Faljević, Ivica Perić, Mladen Halapa, Branko Vuk, Zoran Šaronja, Davor Vukas, Željko Filipović.
MONITORING REPORTS

The majority of the defendants are unavailable to judicial bodies of the RoC.

So far, only the 10th defendant Dragan Vranešević was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The defendants Tošo Sundać, Slavko Tadić, Goran Barač, Dušan Badić, Dalibor Borota and Rade Lukač allegedly died or deceased, but since there are no official documents issued by the relevant institutions confirming their deaths, the procedure against these persons has not been terminated yet.

In February 2009, we monitored the separated procedure against the 11th defendant Đuro Đurić. Following the re-qualification of the criminal act to armed rebellion; a verdict was passed which rejected the indictment against this defendant.

At the trial hearing held on 8 June 2009, the procedure was separated in relation to the defendants Simo Gaić, Đorđe Borojević and Zoran Tadić, who are unavailable to Croatian judiciary. The indictment was modified in relation to them. Pursuant to the aforementioned modification, they are charged with committing the criminal act of armed rebellion referred to in Article 236 f, paragraph 1 of the KZRH.

Zamlača, Struga and Kozibrod II – monitoring report (in Croatian)
VERDICT

On 8 June 2009, the Council passed a verdict which rejected the indictment against the defendants Simo Gaić, Đorđe Borojević and Zoran Tadić, pursuant to Article 353, item 6 of the Criminal Procedure Act, in relation to Article 2, paragraph 2 of the General Amnesty Act.

Crime in Knin

On 3 July 2008, the War Crimes Council of the Šibenik County Court found the defendant Saša Počuča guilty of a war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the Basic Criminal Law of the RoC (hereinafter: the OKZ RH) and a war crime against war prisoners referred to in Article 122 of the OKZ RH and sentenced him to 5 (five) years in prison.

The Supreme Court of the RoC (at the public session held on 16 December 2008) altered the verdict of the Šibenik County Court in the decision on sentence and the defendant Počuča received 5 years in prison for each criminal act and was handed down a joint prison sentence in the duration of 8 years.
INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The defendant is charged that, in the period between end of June 1991 and February 1992 in Knin, during the armed aggression against the Republic of Croatia by the so-called JNA and paramilitary forces from SR Yugoslavia and armed Serb paramilitary formations belonging to the unconstitutional entity, the so-called Republika Srpska Krajina, after members of the «Martić’s Militia» unlawfully deprived of liberty civilians (count I of the indictment), Croatian Military (HV) members and members of the Croatian Police – MUP (count II of the indictment) and detained them in the District Prison located in the premises of the old and abandoned hospital in Knin, the defendant was performing the duty of a guard in that prison. Acting in the capacity of a “Martić’s policeman”, the defendant was beating the aforementioned detainees on a daily basis with legs, fists, rubber baton, gunstock, wooden bat hold, wooden stake, baton and other hard objects on their heads and all over their bodies, tortured them with electro shocks, as a result of which treatment the detainees would fall on the floor and lose conscience. He jumped on them causing injuries to their bodies, put kitchen salt in their mouths, put out cigarettes in their mouths and forced them to swallow the cigarette ash and kitchen salt; he forced them to wash toilette floors with their tongues and to pick up cigarettes in the prison yard with their mouths, forced them to perform oral sex threatening them with death, which they did fearing for their lives. Thus, as a result of sustained numerous serious physical life-threatening injuries in the shape of bone fractures, internal bleeding and various other serious physical injuries, as well as due to mental torture and abuse, the injured parties suffered permanent damage to their physical and mental health and permanent disability,

1. thus, having violated the rules of the international humanitarian law during an armed conflict, he tortured civilian population and treated them inhumanely,

2. thus, having violated the rules of the international humanitarian law, he tortured, inhumanely treated war prisoners and caused them huge suffering and injuries to their physical integrity and health,

whereby he committed, under count 1, criminal act against humanity and the international humanitarian law, war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH, and under count 2 criminal act against humanity and international humanitarian law, war crime against war prisoners referred to in Article 122 of the OKZ RH, punishable pursuant to Article 43 of the same Law.

You can read the indictment issued by the Šibenik County State’s Attorney’s Office (hereinafter: the ŽDO), No. K-DO-21/07 of 16 October 2007, here (pdf, 3,73 MB). (in Croatian)

 

GENERAL DATA

Šibenik County Court

Case number: K 52/07

War Crimes Council: Judge Jadranka Biga – Milutin, Council President; Judge Sanibor Vuletin, Council member; Judge Ivo Vukelja, Council member

Indictment: issued by the Šibenik ŽDO, No. K-DO-21/07 of 16 October 2007, modified by a submission dated 28 March 2008 and at the court hearing held on 23 May 2008

Prosecuting attorney: Zvonko Ivić, Deputy Šibenik County State’s Attorney and Sanda Pavlović – Lučić, Deputy Šibenik County State’s Attorney

Criminal act: war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH and war crime against war prisoners referred to in Article 122 of the OKZ RH

Defendant: Saša Počuča

Defence counsel: Vera Bego, a lawyer practising in Šibenik

Victims (civilians):

– died as a result of injuries sustained: Ivan Hodak

– abused: Šime Čačić, Ante Mioč, Drago Šimić, Ivan Šimić, Ivica Zrno, Ivana Lipak, Živko Mikulić, Diki Šaban, Tomislav Teskera, Krsto Silov, Marko Salopek, Stipe Banovac, Franjo Haužan, Mirko Barbarić, Marko Sikavica, Mato Baković, Marko Baković, Marko Lojić, Davor Lojić, Mirko Pilipović, Mićo Katuša, Ivan Požeg, Lenko Škibola, Stanko Kolčeg, Mile Šindilj, Ante Lojić, Mile Skorup, Ilija Hodak, Ante Kamber, Mile Modrić, Mile Maričić, Ivan Žarković, Ivan Buljan and Mile Slavić.

Victims (abused prisoners): Jakov Ćosić, Žarko Matenda, Ivica Graberski, Nenad Lazarušić, Miho Periš, Ivica Matić, Željko Mrkonjić, Josip Keselj, Božo Franić, Tomislav Grubišić, Zdenko Blažević, Denis Delić, Slavko Silov, Ante Grgić, Ivica Jamičić, Pajo Jamičić, Jure Rogić (pripadnici Hrvatske vojske); Radoslav Bobanović, Milan Špoljarić, Mirko Medunić, Ivan Škorić i Željko Lipak, Velibor Bračić, Ante Slavić, Vladimir Mikulić, Zvonko Maloča, Ante Kunac, Ivica Klanac, Ivan Validžić, Ivan Pavičić, Ante Marinović, Denis Bronić and Ivan Atelj (members of the Croatian MUP).
MONITORING REPORTS

KNIN monitoring reports (in Croatian)

The first hearing was held on 23 January 2008, followed by additional eight hearings at which a total of 26 witnesses were heard. The following witnesses were heard: Šime Čačić, Ivan Hodak, Ivan Šimić, Jakov Ćosić, Ivica Matić, Ivica Graberski, Anđelko Krvavica, Radoslav Bobanović, Tomislav Grubišić, Mirko Medunić, Ivan Škorić, Milan Špoljarić, Ivan Lipak, Nenad Lazarušić, Anto Mioč, Žarko Matenda, Miho Periš, Ilija Hodak, Milan Conjar, Marko Salopek, Dikin Šaban, Tomislav Teskera, Franjo Halužar, Mirko Barbarić, Ivan Požeg and Zvonko Maloča.

At the first hearing held on 23 January 2008, the indictment was read, the defendant entered his guilt plea and presented his defence. At the hearing held on 5 March 2008, the public was excluded during the witness testimony of Tomislav Grubišić, as well as at the hearing held on 7 April 2008 during the witness testimony of Nenad Lazarušić. These testimonies are secret and were not published in monitoring reports.

The Deputy Šibenik County State’s Attorney forwarded a written submission to the Court on 31 March in which he modified the factual description of the indictment K-DO-21/07 of 16 October 2008, so that, along with the names of injured parties from the criminal act under count 1 he also added the following names: Diki Šaban, Tomislav Teskera, Krsto Silov, Marko Salopek, Stipe Banovac, Franjo Halužan, Mirko Barbarić, Marko Sikavica, Mate Baković, Marko Baković, Marko Lojić, Davor Lojić, Mirko Pilipović, Mićo Katuša, Ivan Požeg, Lenko Škibola, Stanko Kolčeg, Mile Šindilj, Ante Lojić, Mile Skorup, Ilija Hodak, Ante Kamber, Mile Modrić, Mile Maričić, Ivan Žarković, while along with the names of injured parties from the criminal act under count 2 he also added the following names: Zdenko Blažević, Denis Delić, Slavko Silov, Ante Grgić, Ivica Jamičić, Pajo Jamičić, Jure Rogić, Velibor Bračić, Ante Slavić, Vladimir Mikulić, Zvonko Maloča, Ante Kunac, Ivica Klanac, Ivan Validžić, Ivan Pavičić, Ante Marinović, Denis Bronić, Ivan Atelj.

The main hearing at the Šibenik County Court was concluded on 3 July 2008 and the Council, following deliberation and voting, reached a verdict pursuant to which the defendant Saša Počuča was found guilty of a war crime against civilians and a war crime against war prisoners and received a joint prison sentence in the duration of 5 years.
VERDICT

The defendant Saša Počuča was found guilty because, in the period between end of August 1991 and beginning of January 1992 in Knin, during the armed aggression by the so-called JNA and paramilitary forces from SR Yugoslavia and armed Serb paramilitary formations, after members of the «Martić’s Militia» unlawfully deprived of liberty civilians (Šimo Čačić, Ante Mioč, Drago Šimić, Ivan Šimić, Ivica Zrno, Živko Mikulić, Mirko Pilipović, Ivan Požeg, Ivan Buljan and Milo Slavić), Croatian Military members (Jakov Ćosić, Žarko Matenda, Ivica Graberski, Nenad Lazarušić, Miho Peruš, Ivica Matić, Željko Mrkonjić, Josip Keselj, Božo Franić, Tomislav Grubišić, Zdenko Blažević and Denis Delić) and members of the Croatian MUP (Radoslav Bobanović, Mirko Medunić, Ivan Škorić, Ante Slavić, Vladimir Mikulić and Ivan Atelj) and detained them in the District Prison located in the premises of the old and abandoned hospital in Knin where the defendant was beating the aforementioned detained civilians and the detained war prisoners on a daily basis with legs, fists, rubber baton, gunstock, wooden bat hold, wooden stake, baton and other hard objects, put kitchen salt onto their injuries, put out cigarettes in their mouths, put a handful of kitchen salt in their mouths, forced them to swallow the cigarette ash and kitchen salt, forced them to wash toilette floors with their tongues and to pick up cigarettes in the prison yard with their mouths, forced them to perform oral sex so that they would be taking turns placing penises into their mouths threatening them that he would kill them and cut off their penises if they failed to comply, which they did fearing for their lives. Thus, as a result of sustained serious physical injuries such as bone fractures, internal bleeding and various other physical injuries, as well as due to mental torture and abuse, the injured parties suffered permanent damage to their physical and mental health and permanent disability. Thereby he committed, under count 1, a criminal act against humanity and the international humanitarian law, war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH, and under count 2 a criminal act against humanity and international humanitarian law, war crime against war prisoners referred to in Article 122 of the OKZ RH.

The defendant Počuča received 3 years in prison for each criminal act and was handed down a joint prison sentence in the duration of 5 years.

The time he had spent in detention will be calculated into the aforementioned prison sentence (he has been in detention since he was deprived of liberty on 19 April 2007).

Detention against the defendant was extended.

The Supreme Court of the RoC (at the public session held on 16 December 2008) altered the verdict of the Šibenik County Court in the decision on sentence and the defendant Počuča received 5 years in prison for each criminal act and was handed down a joint prison sentence in the duration of 8 years.

You can read the verdict of the Supreme Court here. (in Croatian)
OPINION OF THE MONITORING TEAM AFTER THE FIRST INSTANCE PROCEDURE

The War Crimes Council of the Šibenik County Court found the defendant Saša Počuča guilty of torture, inhumane treatment and imposing of huge suffering and physical injuries to the detained civilians and members of the Croatian MUP and the HV in detention facility at the so-called Old Hospital in Knin. For both criminal acts, a war crime against civilians and a war crime against war prisoners, the defendant received three years in prison and was handed down a joint prison sentence in the duration of five years. During the sentencing procedure, the Court took as mitigating circumstance the fact that the defendant was a young adult at the incriminating time and, by way of applying the sentence mitigation principle, for each of the criminal acts it pronounced a sentence below the minimum sentence stipulated for the criminal acts in question.

Although the defendant denied guilt, the War Crimes Council assessed his defence as unconvincing, bearing in mind the witness testimonies that charged him. As many as 14 heard witnesses, either detained or imprisoned in the detention facility where the defendant was a guard at the incriminating time, directly charged the defendant. Most of them stated that the defendant, as a prison guard, beat them, while several of them stated that he also participated in rape and other forms of abuse.

During the sentencing procedure, the Court applied the sentence mitigation principle. While doing so, it primarily assessed as a mitigating circumstance the defendant’s age at the time of committing a crime, but the question is whether the Supreme Court, should it deem that the facts were correctly established in the first instance procedure, will find the application of the sentence mitigation principle appropriate, particularly taking into account the number of criminal acts the defendant had committed and a large number of injured parties that were, according to the establishment of the first instance court, beaten or in other ways physically (the defendant put kitchen salt on their wounds an put out cigarettes in their mouths…) and sexually abused (the defendant forced them to perform oral sex)[1].

We did not monitor the main hearing in its entirety, but still we would like to point at the omissions that we observed during the monitored hearings:

• Material evidence, documents and testimonies provided during the investigation were neither read nor briefly verbally presented, but the minutes from the court hearing stated otherwise, thus the public had no possibility to access their contents.

• It was recorded in the minutes from the court hearing that the witnesses were properly advised on their duty to testify and on specific legal regulations, but the witnesses were not entirely familiarised with the content of legal regulations.

• Council President posed suggestive questions by paraphrasing some witness testimonies provided during the investigation, stating the names, dates etc. without allowing witnesses to provide this information themselves; thus, in that sense, she left the impression of putting suggestive influence onto witnesses.

• Council President interrupted the closing speech of the defendant. Although in some cases and following a prior warning she is entitled to do so, in this particular case it was not recorded in the minutes from the main hearing that the speech was interrupted and what was the reason for that.

• Council President denied monitors access to the minutes from the court hearing or to the case file.



[1] The Supreme Court of the RoC (at the public session held on 16 December 2008) altered the verdict of the War Crimes Council of the Šibenik County Court in the decision on sentence and the defendant Počuča received 5 years in prison for each criminal act and was handed down a joint prison sentence in the duration of 8 years.

Crime in Borovo Selo


Eight defendants: Jovan Ćurčić, Miloš Držajić, Mladen Maksimović, Dušan Mišić, Dragan (Čede) Savić, Jovica Vučenović, Dragan Savić, Željko Savić, members of Serbian paramilita groups, are prosecuted on indictment by the County Attorney′s Office from Vukovar, No. K-DO-17/03 as of 9th September 2003, for the criminal act of war crime against civilians, Article 120, Paragraph 1, of the Croatian Criminal Justice Act.

Criminal proceedings were conducted before the County Court in Vukovar, ending in the Sentence No. K-44/03 passed by the said court on 13th July 2004, based on which the defendant Jovan Čurčić was sentenced to a fifteen-year term, the defendant Miloš Držajić to an eleven-year term, the defendant Mladen Maksimović to an eight-year term, the defendatn Dušan Mišić to a seven-year term, the defendant Dragan (Čede) Savić to a seven-year term, and the defendant Jovica Vučenović to a seven-year term. The indictment against the defendants Dragan Savić and Željko Savić was rejected.

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia set aside the sentence of the County Court in Vukovar due to a substential violation of the provisions on criminal proceedings and reversed the proceedings. The evidence requested by the Supreme Court was presented in the retrial conducted under number K-12/05 against six defendants (who were sentenced to imprisonment).

Three defendants are present at the hearings; they are under detention. Three defendants are on the run and tried in absence.

On 15th December 2005 the Court passed the sentence No. K-12/05 as of 15th December 2005, finding the defendants guilty and sentencing them to a term of imprisonment: the defendant Jovan Čurčić to a fourteen-year term, the defendant Miloš Držajić to a ten-year term, the defendant Mladen Maksimivić to a seven-year term, the defendant Dušan Mišić to a six-year term, the defendant Dragan (Čede) Savić to a six-year term, the defendant Jovica Vučenović to a six-year term. The present defendants will remain in detention until the sentence becomes final.

REPORTS FROM HEARINGS

Report from hearings in the period from March 2005. till June 2005.

Crime in Ervenik


In a re-opened trial against the defendant Sreten Peslać, who had been tried in absence in 1993 and sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment, the Šibenik County Court reached the verdict on suspension of the indictment on 9 February 2009 by applying the General Amnesty Act, after the County State’s Attorney’s Office had changed the factual and legal description as well as the legal qualification of the offence, changing it from a war crime against civilians into an armed rebellion.

INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The indictment No: KT-27/92 issued by the Šibenik County Prosecutor’s Office on 23 October 1992 charged 30 persons with a war crime against civilians.

Eight indictees were charged with the murder of Drago Čengić, and the murder of Čengić’s wife Nevenka and their sons Slobodan and Goran, who were minors at the time of the crime in mid-January 1992.
Twenty two indictees, with Sreten Peslać among them, were charged that they, in their capacity as members of paramilitary units of the so-called Krajina region, committed terrorist acts against civilians in the Ervenik area from May 1991 until January 1992; with the intention to make the civilians leave the territory of the so-called SAO Krajina, they threatened, insulted and physically abused civilians, they plundered and destroyed the civilians’ movable property and set on fire immovable property, they unlawfully arrested civilians and took them to detention camps in Knin where the civilians were exposed to physical and psychical abuse – this all caused leaving of the area by many villagers just to stay alive.

Indictment No: KT-27/92 issued by the Šibenik County Prosecutor’s Office on 23 October 1992 is available here (PDF, 529 KB), and the verdict of the Šibenik County Court of 23 April 1993 is available here (PDF, 1,75 MB).

At the main hearing held on 9 February 2009, the County Deputy State’s Attorney modified factual and legal description of the offence by charging the defendant that in Ervenik, in the period from May 1991 until end of 1992, with the purpose of forcefully bringing down the legal authorities of the Republic of Croatia, he joined paramilitary units of the so-called SAO Krajina, and armed with an automatic gun together with other members he kept watch of the enemy positions, participated in house searches, in detaining Ervenik’s villagers and also in other activities; thus, he participated in an armed rebellion, and thereby he committed a criminal offence against the Republic of Croatia – the armed rebellion referred to in Article 235, paragraph 1 of the Criminal Law of the Republic of Croatia (KZRH).
GENERAL INFORMATION

Šibenik County Court

Case number: K-59/08

War Crimes Council (the panel): judge Branko Ivić, Council President; judges Ivo Vukelja and Jadranka Biga Milutin, Council members

Indictment: No. KT-27/92 issued by the Šibenik County State’s Attorney’s Office on 23 October 1992, modified at the main hearing held on 9 February 2009

Prosecution: Sanda Pavlović Lučić, the Šibenik County Deputy State’s Attorney

Criminal offence: war crime against civilian population, on 9 February 2009 the legal qualification of the offence was modified into armed rebellion

Defendant: Sreten Peslać

Defence: Vera Bego, lawyer from Šibenik
TRIAL MONITORING REPORTS

The trial against the defendant Sreten Peslać commenced before the War Crimes Council of the Šibenik County Court on 1 December 2008.
On the basis of legally valid verdict of the Šibenik County Court issued on 23 April 1993, Sreten Peslać was found guilty for the criminal offence as charged in the indictment and sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment. The trial was conducted in absence of the defendant.

On 18 February 2008, Sreten Peslać was arrested in Verona, Italy, during his check-in with the police regarding his documents. On that occasion, a police official informed Peslać that an international arrest warrant had been issued against him. He was ordered detention. After he was served the indictment, Peslać read it and decided to submit the request for his extradition to Croatia.

At the hearing held on 1 December 2008, the defendant stated he understood the indictment and pleaded not guilty. He presented his defence at the beginning of the trial. Out of five summoned witnesses, three witnesses did not respond whereas two witnesses responded and provided their statements.

The Council rejected a proposal by the defence to suspend the detention of the defendant as being unfounded.

On 9 February 2009, the Šibenik County State’s Attorney’s Office modified the factual and legal description as well as legal qualification of the offence stated in the indictment, changing it from a war crime against civilians into an armed rebellion.
VERDICT

On the basis of the modified factual and legal description as well as legal qualification of the offence into an armed rebellion, by applying the General Amnesty Act, the War Crimes Council of the Šibenik County Court announced a verdict on suspension of the indictment on 9 February 2009
The detention order was suspended; the defendant was released from custody and the arrest warrant was recalled.
FINAL VIEW OF THE MONITORING TEAM FOLLOWING THE COUNCLUSION OF THE REPEATED TRIAL

The reopened trial against the defendant Sreten Peslać, tried in absence in 1993 and sentenced to a 10-year prison term, arrested in Italy in February 2008 and extradited to Croatia, was conducted before the War Crimes Council of the Šibenik County Court and concluded on 9 February 2009.

At the last hearing the Šibenik County Court modified the legal qualification of the offence, modifying it from a war crime against civilians into an armed rebellion. Subsequently, the Court reached the verdict that rejected the charges by applying the General Amnesty Act.

This trial is yet another example of the earlier practice of issuing poor-quality indictments and insufficiently precise indictments against a large number of defendants. Later, almost as a rule, the defendants were tried in absentia and sentenced to long prison terms.

Recently, we have been witnessing the reinstitution/re-opening of trials against persons who were previously legally sentenced in absence, in which the prosecution, in the course of the evidence procedure, is dropping charges or altering the legal qualification of the offence into criminal act of armed rebellion, so that the courts, by applying the General Amnesty Act, are reaching verdicts on suspension of indictment, or issuing decisions on trial termination.

Because of the mentioned practice by the prosecution and courts, a common one in the 1990ties, Sreten Peslać spent one year in custody despite the fact that evidence, available at the first-instance court trial and at the re-opened trial, did not change significantly.

By monitoring the trial, we recorded a situation to which we would like to indicate for the purpose of possible similar re-opened trials in the future although this situation did not affect the outcome of the trial and the “destiny” of the defendant.

Namely, at the first hearing at the trial, following the reading of the indictment and the defendant pleading not guilty to committing any acts he was charged with in the indictment, the War Crime Council President stated that the trial was being conducted pursuant to the 1993 Criminal Act Procedure (Official Gazette 34/93), and did not grant the defendant’s request to present his defence at the end of the evidence procedure.[i]

It is obvious that a footing for such a stand, the Council President rested on the provisions on the re-opening of trial of the Criminal Procedure Act (OG 110/97), in force at the time when this re-opened trial was conducted; this Act stipulates that in the case of new proceedings conducted pursuant to the decision allowing the re-opening of the trial, the same provisions apply as for the first trial.[ii] In respect of the first trial, in which the defendant was tried in absence, the Criminal Procedure Act in force in 1993 was applied.

We believe that in this specific case of a re-opened trial against the def. Sreten Peslać the act in force at the time of conducting the re-opened trial, i.e. the 1997 ZKP, should have been applied. In our opinion, Article 411 of the ZKP relates to the application of material and legal provisions, thus accordingly the penal act valid at the time of the first trial should be applied and not the procedural law. The legislator itself in the “newest” Criminal Procedure Act (OG 152/08) clarified that particular provision by stipulating that for the new trial conducted on the basis of the decision allowing re-opening of the trial, the same material and legal provisions as were valid for the first trial would apply, except the provisions on statute of limitation.[iii]

If the re-opened trial was conducted pursuant to the law valid at that time, this would have made possible for the defendant to present his defence plea at the end of the proceedings, since it is prescribed that the defendant, who pleads not guilty to all or some counts of the indictment is to be heard at the end of the evidence procedure, unless the defendant himself requests otherwise.[iv]

We would also like to draw attention to the provision of Article 191, paragraph 3 of the Act on Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act (OG 58/02) according to which, if a main hearing, in the case conducted in line with the provisions valid so far (i.e. the law which was previously in force), is to start anew, the plea of the defendants in respect of the charges, within the meaning of Article 320, paragraph 3 of the Criminal Procedure Act, shall be heard and the procedure shall continue pursuant to the provisions of this Act i.e. the Criminal Procedure Act of 1997. In the same manner, the court shall act also in the case when the verdict was annulled following a legal remedy and the case was reversed for a retrial.[v]

We repeat that this situation did not significantly influence the outcome of this specific trial. However, if the prosecution had not modified the legal qualification of the crime stated in the indictment, we believe that the mentioned situation would have represented a significant violation referred to in Article 367, paragraph 1, item 8 of the ZKP and that the verdict would have been quashed and returned to the first-instance court for a retrial.

 


[i] Article 306 of the mentioned Act stipulates that the Council President, after reading the indictment or litigation claim or after an oral presentation of their contents, shall start with hearing of the defendant, as well as that the defendant shall be asked, after entering plea on each count of the indictment, to present her/his defence

[ii] Article 411, paragraph 1 of the ZKP (OG 110/97).

[iii] Article508, paragraph 1 of the ZKP (OG 152/08). The mentioned Article is a version of Article 411 of the ZKP (OG 110/97).

[iv] Article 320, paragraph 7 of the ZKP (OG 110/97).

[v] It is disputable whether the mentioned Article refers only to situations when the main hearing is to start anew due to regular legal remedies, when the composition of the Council was changed or when the trial recess lasted longer than two months, or it can also be applied in the cases of re-opening the trial.

Crime in Sremska Mitrovica


In January 2009, the Vukovar County State’s Attorney’s Office withdrew its charges against Milovan Ždrnja that he committed a war crime against civilians, pursuant to Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.

INDICTMENT

According to the indictment, in the early morning of 20 November 1991 at the Sremska Mitrovica detention camp, where captured and wounded civilians were transported by buses after the occupation of Vukovar on 18 November 1991, the defendant, acting as a member of the military traffic police of the so-called Yugoslav National Army, escorted the buses and later on the platform of the camp yard where detainees were lined up, approached Ivica Pavić and hit him on the nape of the neck with a rubber club although he could see that the detainee had wounds in the feet of both legs and could barely stand with exhaustion. As a consequence of the defendant’s action, Ivica Pavić lost consciousness and fell on the ground. He was then taken away, while still unconscious, to the premises of the detention by Ivan Levačić and another unidentified detainee.

Thus, breaching the international humanitarian law rules in time of war, the defendant tortured and inhumanely treated civilians, inflicting severe suffering and injuries to their body integrity.

In doing so, the defendant committed a crime against the values protected by the international humanitarian law – a war crime against civilians pursuant to Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Vukovar County Court

Case No. : K 30/07

War Crimes Council (the panel): Judge Slavko Teofilović, Council President, judges Zlata Sotirov and Berislav Matanović, Council members

Indictment: No. K-DO-25/02 issued by the Vukovar County State’s Attorney’s Office on 26 September 2002, modified on 9 July 2004

Prosecution: Zdravko Babić, the Vukovar County Deputy State’s Attorney

Criminal offence: war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the Basic Criminal Law of the Republic of Croatia (hereinafter: the OKZRH)

Defendant: Milovan Ždrnja, not kept in custody during the trial

Defence: lawyer Igor Plavšić representing the defendant Milovan Ždrnja

Victim:

– beaten: Ivica Pavić
TRIAL MONITORING REPORTS

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia upheld the appeal lodged by the defendant Milovan Ždrnja and quashed the first-instance verdict announced on 31 December 2004 (by which the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to three years and six months of imprisonment), and reversed the case for a repeated trial before a completaly altered council. The Supreme Court ordered that in the repeated trial all evidence should be thoroughly checked and analyzed in order to establish whether there was any evidence that the defendant was at the Sremska Mitrovica detention camp on the night between 19 and 20 November 1991 and whether he committed a crime against the injured person Ivica Pavić. If the Court establishes that the defendant hit the injured person on the nape of the neck with a rubber club so that he lost consciousness, it needs to be established whether this is an act of ill-treatment which inflicted severe suffering on a civilian, or this is a case of a different type of a crime.

The repeated trial against the defendant Milovan Ždrnja began on 5 June 2008.

The defendant pleaded not guilty and stated that he would present his defence at the end of the evidence procedure.

One witness was examined – the witness Šimun Karlušić.
CANCELLATION OF THE PROCEEDINGS

Due to a withdrawal by the Vukovar County State’s Attorney’s Office from further criminal prosecution of the defendant Milovan Ždrnja, the Vukovar County Court issued a decision on 23 January 2009, pursuant to Article 291, paragraph 1, item 1 of the Criminal Procedure Act, cancelling the criminal proceedings against the defendant Milovan Ždrnja for committing a criminal offence against humanity and international humanitarian law – a war crime against civilians, as described and punishable under Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.

The spouse and children of the injured person Ivica Pavić were notified about the possibility of criminal prosecution to be continued because the injured person Ivica Pavić died in the course of the trial.

OPINION OF THE MONITORING TEAM FOLLOWING THE CONCLUDED TRIAL

On 23 January 2009, the criminal proceedings against Milovan Ždrnja was cancelled before the Vukovar County Court since the Vukovar County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped charges against Ždrnja.

With the modified indictment from July 2004, the defendant was charged that he had approached Ivica Pavić in the Sremska Mitrovica detention camp on 20 November 1991 and hit the victim on the back of his head using a truncheon, so that the victim had lost conscience and fallen on the ground; and thus the defendant, at the time of the armed conflict, tortured and inhumanely treated civilians causing them major suffering and physical injuries, and thus committed a crime against the values protected by the international humanitarian law – war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH.

Prior to the mentioned modification, the defendant was also charged with hitting of Šimun Karlušić.

On 31 December 2004, the War Crimes Council of the Vukovar County Court found the defendant Milovan Ždrnja guilty and, by applying the provisions on mitigation of the sentence, it sentenced him to 3 years and 6 months in prison.

On 20 March 2007, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia (hereinafter: the Supreme Court) quashed the first-instance court verdict and reversed the case to the first-instance court for a repeated trial, to be conducted before the completely altered council. The Supreme Court found that the facts, upon which the decision on the defendant’s responsibility was based, had been incomplete and incorrectly established.

Since the verdict rested only on the statement of the injured person Ivica Pavić and on the testimony of the witness Šimun Karlušić, the first-instance court, in a repeated trial, following the instructions of the Supreme Court, was obliged to evaluate their testimonies more thoroughly, more critically and comprehensively. If the court had found that the defendant had hit the victim’s back of the head once using a truncheon so that the victim had lost consciousness, then it should have evaluated whether such action of torture of a civilian did represent inhumane treatment of the civilian, whether such action did cause great suffering to the victim, which all represented the significant characteristics of the crime the accused was charged with, or whether the mentioned action could possibly represent another criminal offence.

By changing the factual description of the indictment in July 2004, during the first trial, the Vukovar County State’s Attorney’s Office, after hearing the witness Šimun Karlušić, dropped one part of the incrimination relating to the actions taken to his detriment.

In the end, the accusation was based only on the testimony of the victim Ivica Pavić who deceased in the course of the repeated trial.

After seven years of court proceedings, during which one non-final (first-instance court verdict) verdict of guilty was reached, the prosecution dropped charges.

We are of opinion that in every criminal proceeding, indictments should be issued following the properly conducted investigations and they should be resting on evidence which would create a well founded suspicion that the defendant was indeed the perpetrator of crime.

The court trial that lasted for seven years, after which the prosecution dropped charges, does not support the mentioned.

Crime in Velepromet

After the Vukovar County State’s Attorney’s Office (hereinafter: the ŽDO) forwarded on 8 April 2009 a letter to the Vukovar County Court in which it dropped charges against the defendant Stanimir Avramović, the Vukovar County Court passed a ruling No. K-66/07, dated 30 April 2009, quashing the proceedings against him.
INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The indictment issued by the Vukovar ŽDO No. DO-K-12/99, dated 9 January 2003, charged the defendant Stanimir Avramović that, together with other defendants, following the occupation of Vukovar on 18 November 1991 by the so-called JNA (Yugoslav People’s Army) and associated paramilitary formations, as a member of those formations, he was taking away captured members of the Croatian National Guard (ZNG) and civilians from the Vukovar hospital and other parts of the city, who had previously been expelled from their homes and shelters, and gathered them at the collective centre of the “Velepromet” warehouse in Vukovar where citizens were separated along the ethnic lines. On that occasion, citizens were deprived of money, gold and other personal belongings; they were physically abused in different manners, while a large number of persons were killed. The defendant took those and other detainees and civilians to detention camps in SR Yugoslavia – Stajićevo and Sremska Mitrovica, acting contrary to Article 3, 27, 31 and 33 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War dated 12 August 1949, in relation to Article 4 of the II Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions which prohibits inhumane treatment, violence to the life and physical well-being of persons, in particular murder, cruel treatment and torture, outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatments, intimidation, physical coercion in order to obtain information, looting and other reprisals against persons who do not take a direct part in hostilities, including members of the armed forces who laid down their weapons and persons incapacitated for combat for any reason, thus

– he captured detainees telling them: “We trusted you for 40 years, and now you want to butcher us” and hitting them with a rifle butt and legs,

therefore, having breached the rules of the international law, he tortured and inhumanely treated civilians during the occupation, causing them great suffering and injuries to physical integrity and applied measures of intimidation,

thus, he committed a criminal act against the values protected by the international law, a war crime against civilians described and punishable pursuant to Article 120, paragraph 1 of the Basic Criminal Law of the Republic of Croatia (hereinafter: the OKZ RH).
GENERAL DATA

The Vukovar County Court

Case file number: K-66/07

War Crime Council: Judge Nikola Bešenski, Council President; Judge Stjepan Margić, Council member and Judge Željko Marin, Council member

Indictment: issued by the Vukovar County State’s Attorney’s Office, No. DO-K-12/99, dated 9 January 2003

Prosecuting attorney: Božidar Piljić, the Vukovar County State’s Attorney

Criminal act: war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OK ZRH

Defendant: Stanimir Avramović, tried in absentia

Defence counsel: Vojislav Ore, a lawyer practising in Vukovar
MONITORING REPORTS

VELEPROMET monitoring reports (in Croatian)

During the third (second repeated) main hearing, the Vukovar County State’s Attorney’s Office forwarded on 8 April 2009 a letter to the Vukovar County Court in which it dropped charges against the defendant Stanimir Avramović, and then the Vukovar County Court passed a ruling No. K-66/07, dated 30 April 2009, quashing the criminal proceedings against the aforementioned defendant.

The defendant Stanimir Avramović was tried in absentia.

You can read the summary of the proceedings for the crime in Velepromet here. (in Croatian)

Cime in Dalj 3

On 21 April 2008, the Osijek County Court found the defendants Novak Simić, Miodrag Kikanović and Radovan Krstinić guilty for committing a war crime against civilians. The defendant Simić was sentenced to nine years in prison, the defendant Kikanović to five years and six months in prison and the defendant Krstinić to four years in prison.

Croatian Supreme Court, at its session held on 3 December 2008, modified the verdict by altering the duration of the sentence: Simić was sentenced to ten years, Kikanović to six years and six months and Krstinić to five years in prison.
INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

Indictment No. K-DO-20/07 of the Osijek County State Attorney’s Office issued on 6 June 2007, modified at the main hearing held on 18 April 2008, was charging Novak Simić, Miodrag Kikanović and Radovan Krstinić with the following crimes: after joining the Military Police (hereinafter: the VP) of the so called Republic of Srpska Krajina Army, with the purpose to intimidate and abuse non-Serb population, and contrary to the provisions of Article 3 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and contrary to the provisions of Article 4, 5 and 13 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions relative to the Protection of Victims of Non-international Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), the defendants participated in apprehending, questioning, beating and in other abusing forms of Croats and Hungarians, so that:

1) on 3 May 1995, following the apprehension of the injured party Antun Kundić to the VP building of the so called Republic of Srpska Krajina Army because he had left the forced labour site, they were questioning and beating the injured party inflicting severe physical injuries that resulted with his death,

2) in May 1995 they physically abused the injured party Ivan Bodza,

3) the defendants Novak Simić and Miodrag Kikanović were charged with physical abuse of the injured party Karol Kremerenski that they carried out together with other VP members,

4) the defendant Novak Simić was charged with a physical abuse on several occasions of the injured party Ivan Horvat inflicting several injuries to him,

5) the defendant Novak Simić was charged with a physical abuse of the injured party Tomo Duvnjak,

6) the defendant Miodrag Kikanović apprehended the injured party Emerik Huđik to the VP premises in Dalj and physically abused him,

7) the defendant Radovan Krstinić, in capacity as the military policeman at Mišino brdo, nearby Dalj, hit with a metal bar a civilian Josip Ledenčan on his back and legs,

thus, they violated the international humanitarian law rules in time of armed conflict, inhumanely treated the civilians causing injuries of physical integrity and health and killed one civilian, therefore they committed a criminal offence against humanity and international humanitarian law – a war crime against civilians, as described and punishable pursuant to Article 120, paragraph 1 of the Basic Criminal Law of the Republic of Croatia (hereinafter: the OKZRH).

Before modification of the indictment, the defendant Miodrag Kikanović was also charged with the abuse of Marijo Lazar.
GENERAL INFORMATION

The Osijek County Court

Case file no.: Krz-42/07

Criminal act: a war crime against civilians under Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH

Indictment no.: K-DO-20/07, of 06 June 2007, modified at the court session held on 18 April 2008

Defendants:

Novak Simić (tried in absentia), was a VP member of the so called Republic of Srpska Krajina Army at the incriminating period

Miodrag Kikanović, was a VP member of the so called Republic of Srpska Krajina Army at the incriminating period, in detention from 22 February 2007

Radovan Krstinić, was a VP member of the so called Republic of Srpska Krajina Army at the incriminating period, in detention from 22 February 2007 until the announcement of the verdict on 21 April 2008

Victim – died after abuse: Antun Kundić

Victims – abused: Ivan Bodza, Karol Kremerenski, Ivan Horvat, Tomo Duvnjak, Emerik Huđik, Marijo Lazar (by modifying the indictment, the prosecutor dropped charges in respect of the indictment count which was charging the defendant Kikanović with abuse of Marijo Lazar) and Josip Ledenčan

Prosecution: Dražen Križevac, the Osijek County Deputy State’s Attorney

Defence:
lawyer Hrvoje Krivić, court appointed defence counsel representing the defendant Novak Simić (tried in absentia)
lawyer Dinko Matijašević, defence counsel representing the defendant Miodrag Kikanović
lawyer Mihajlo Marušić, defence counsel representing the defendant Radoslav Krstinić

War Crimes Council:

judge Krunoslav Barkić – Council President

judge Branka Guljaš – Council member

judge Dubravka Vučetić – Council member

VERDICT

On 21 April 2008, the defendants were found guilty. The defendant Simić was sentenced to nine years, the defendant Kikanović to five years and six months, and the defendant Krstinić to four years in prison. Detention was extended to the defendant Kikanović. Detention was suspended to the defendant Krstinić (when the verdict was announced).

Croatian Supreme Court, at its session held on 3 December 2008, modified the verdict in the part pertaining to decision on the sentence so that the defendant Simić was sentenced to ten years, the defendant Kikanović to six years and six months and the defendant Krstinić to five years in prison.

 

FINAL OPINION OF THE MONITORING TEAM FOLLOWING THE CONCLUSION OF THE FIRST-INSTANCE TRIAL

The procedure against Novak Simić, Miodrag Kikanović and Radovan Krstinić, charged with committing in Dalj, in capacity as VP members of the so called Republic of Srpska Krajina Army a war crime against civilians, was properly conducted.

The procedure was properly conducted.

With the non-final verdict, the defendants were found guilty. They received the following prison sentences: nine years (Simić); five years and six months (Kikanović) and four years (Krstinić).

The defendant Simić was tried in absentia, while the defendants Kikanović and Krstinić attended the main hearing. Although we generally do not support trials in absentia, in this case we find it justified due to the seriousness of the charge which accused the defendants of being accomplices to the crime (inflicting physical injuries on the injured person Antun Kundić, from which he later died). Namely, the facts established in relation to the defendants Kikanović and Krstinić related in great part to Novak Simić as well. Also, the time spent on establishing the facts in relation to the charges accusing Simić of being a single perpetrator in the physical abuse of the injured persons Ivan Horvat and Tomo Duvnjak did not cause any prolongation of the procedure.

The question remains: Will the Supreme Court judge the extenuating and aggravating circumstances in the same way as the War Crimes Council of the Osijek County Court did?

Namely, the First-instance Court made no finding of aggravating circumstances in the case against Kikanović and Krstinić. In the absence of aggravating circumstances, the extenuating circumstances found in relation to the defendant Krstinić (exemplary behaviour in court, absence of previous convictions, being well integrated into the Dalj community, good family relations – being married with two children, and a serious health condition – suffering from lung tuberculosis) were taken as extremely extenuating, so that the defendant was sentenced to four and a half years in prison, which is less than the prescribed minimum sentence for the given crime.

However, in relation to the defendant Simić, the Court found aggravating circumstances of killing one person and inflicting severe physical injuries on four persons, superintendence over the co-defendants in the Army hierarchy, retribution (for the successful military operation Flash) as a partial motive for the committed crime, and ferocity of his acts. In the explanation of the verdict, there was no indication as to why some of the stated circumstances (such as involvement in killing one person or retribution as a partial motive) were viewed as aggravating for one defendant, but not for the other two.

Centre for Peace, Non-Violence and Human Rights Osijek
Documenta – Centre for Dealing with the Past, Zagreb
Civic Committee for Human Rights, Zagreb

Crime in Raštević

 

The trial against the defendant Neven Pupovac, accused of a war crime against civilians perpetrated in the village of Raštević in the period between February and August 1992, was held before the War Crime Council of the Zadar County Court. On 15 May 2006, the defendant was found guilty and non-finally sentenced to 6 years in prison.

 

 

INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The indictment issued by the Zadar State’s Attorney’s Office (hereinafter: the ŽDO) No. KT-71/97, dated 16 June 2003, was modified on 7 November 2005 in such a manner that it was separated with regard to the defendant Neven Pupovac, while on 18 May 2006 the Zadar County Deputy State’s Attorney harmonised the indictment with the established facts.

Neven Pupovac was charged that, in the period between February and August 1992 in Raštević, as a member of rebel Serbs’ paramilitary formations, having breached the rules of international law at the time of armed conflict, performed violent acts against civilians, thus he intimidated Danica Šopić, inhumanely treated her, afflicted serious injuries on her and destroyed her property.

 

MONITORING REPORTS

Before the War Crime Council of the Zadar County Court comprising: Judge Enka Moković (Council President), Judge Ante Anić (Council member) and Judge Boris Babić (Council member), the prosecution is represented by Slobodan Denon – the Zadar County Deputy State’s Attorney.

We did not monitor this case.

 
VERDICT

On 19 May 2006, at 11:30 hours, the War Crime Council of the Zadar County Court published a verdict in which the defendant Neven Pupovac was found guilty of a war crime against civilians and sentenced to 6 years in prison.

On 7 March 2007, the Supreme Court of the RoC rejected the appeal lodged by Neven Pupovac as ill-founded and upheld the first instance verdict by the Zadar County Court.

 

FINAL OPINION OF THE MONITORING TEAM

We did not monitor the criminal procedure against the defendant Neven Pupovac except for one day of the main hearing. Thus we did not analyse the trial.

Crime in Doljani near Daruvar

A repeated trial was held before the War Crimes Council of the Bjelovar County Court from 5 to 7 November 2007 (namely, the decision of the Supreme Court No. I Kž 790/04-5 of 12 October 2006 upheld the appeal lodged by the State Attorney and quashed the acquitting first instance verdict and the case was reversed to the first instance court for retrial) against the defendants Stojan Vujić and Dobrivoje Pavković for criminal offence of war crime against war prisoners referred to in Article 122 of the Basic Criminal Law of the Republic of Croatia (hereinafter: the OKZRH), committed in the village of Doljani near Daruvar on 1 September 1991.

 

 

INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The indictment No. K-DO-81/03, dated 5 February 2004, issued by the County State’s Attorney’s Office in Bjelovar and modified at the main hearing held on 7 November 2007, charged the 1st defendant Stojan Vujić and the 2nd defendant Dobrivoje Pavković that on 1 September 1991, in early morning hours, together with a large number of armed members of the Serb paramilitary unit of the so-called “Pakrac Territorial Defense” carried out a mortar attack on the village of Doljani, after which they, divided into several groups, carried out an infantry attack from several directions on Doljani. Having invaded the village, they entered the houses and carried away some of the civilians and village guard members they found there. The 2nd defendant Dobrivoje Pavković hit Vladimir Zimić, a captured member of the village guard, in the back with the automatic rifle butt and shot two burst fires from the rifle on his legs, whereby Mr. Zimić’s left foot was injured. Afterwards, using hand mortars, tromblon mines and rifles, they attacked Miroslav Polenus’ house in the part of the village called “Kopeček” where several members of the Croatian Ministry of the Interior (hereinafter: MUP) and civil guards were located, who were forced to surrender under threat that the forcibly taken Vladimir Zimić would be killed. After they all laid down their weapons and left the house, they were stripped down to their underwear. The captives were then hit with rifle butts and forced to lay on the road with their faces turned down, their hands were tied with wire and, while being tied, they were hit on their entire bodies and heads. Then, tied and helpless captives were shot at from firearms at close range. On that occasion, Vitomir Polenus, Željko Hunjek, Alfons Tutić, Vladimir Zimić and Marijan Polenus sustained severe bodily injuries, while Srećko Manđini, Željko Bublić and Eugen Lapčić sustained multiple severe and life-threatening bodily injuries of which they died, which was all contrary to the provisions of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of 12 August 1949,

thus, by acting in such manner, having violated the rules of the International Law, they tortured war prisoners, treated them inhumanely and killed them, whereby they committed a criminal act against humanity and International Law – war crime against war prisoners which is, as such, stipulated and punishable pursuant to Article 122 of the OKZRH.
MONITORING REPORTS

The trial was held before the War Crimes Council of the Bjelovar County Court comprising: Judge Antonija Bagarić – Council President, Judge Milenka Slivar – Council member and Judge Ivanka Šarko – Council member. The prosecution was represented by Ivan Rahlicki, Bjelovar County Deputy State’s Attorney.

Defense lawyers:
– for the 1st defendant: Momčilo Borčanin, a lawyer practicing in Zagreb, court appointed defense counsel
– for the 2nd defendant: Božica Jakšić, a lawyer practicing in Bjelovar, court appointed defense counsel

Victims: Srećko Manđani, Željko Bublić and Eugen Lapčić (killed); Vitomir Polenus, Željko Hunjek, Alfons Tutić and Vladimir Zimić (sustained severe bodily injuries); Marijan Polenus (sustained bodily injuries)

At the hearing held on 5 November, the proceedings against the defendant Stojan Vujić (this defendant did not approach this hearing) were separated and they will be concluded separately.
VERDICT

On 7 November 2007, after deliberation and voting, the Council pronounced a verdict pursuant to which the defendantDobrivoje Pavković was proclaimed guilty of committing a criminal offence referred to in Article 122 of the OKZRH and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Pursuant to Article 122, paragraph 1 of the ZKP, the defendant was ordered to compensate the costs of the criminal proceedings and, pursuant to Article 102, paragraph 4 of the ZKP, the defendant was brought into custody.

The defendant Dobrivoje Pavković, who was undetained, did not attend the pronunciation of the verdict.

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia (at a public session held on 14 May 2008) upheld the verdict by the War Crimes Council of the Bjelovar County Court by which the defendantDobrivoje Pavković was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

 

 

OPINION OF THE MONITORING TEAM

The repeated criminal proceedings were properly conducted.

Upon the analysis and evaluation of the presented evidence, the Court determined – in reaching the sentencing verdict – that it was proven the defendant had committed the criminal offence with which he was charged. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. In reaching the verdict, the Court accepted the statements of the two witnesses who had seen and recognized the defendant.

The defendant Pavković attended the main hearing and he was undetained. Immediately before the pronunciation of the verdict, he escaped from Croatia. Thus, he has been declared a fugitive from justice and an international warrant for his arrest has been issued. He has residency in the Republic of Serbia and both Croatian and Serbian citizenships.

Explanation

In the criminal procedure against the defendant Dobrivoje Pavković for the criminal offence pursuant to Article 122 of the OKZRH, instigated by the indictment number K-DO-81/03 (issued by the Bjelovar County State’s Attorney’s Office on 5 February 2004 and modified at the main hearing on 7 November 2007), the Bjelovar County Court (before the War Crimes Council comprising Judge Antonija Bagarić as the Council President and Milenka Slivar and Ivanka Škaro as Council members), reached a sentencing verdict on 7 November 2007 after the open and concluded main trial in the presence of the Bjelovar County Deputy State’s Attorney Ivan Rahlicki, and the court-appointed defense lawyer Božica Jakšić. The Court adjudicated that the defendant Dobrivoje Pavković had committed the criminal offence of war crime against war prisoners on 1 September 1991 when, according to a joint agreement about this criminal act he had with other armed members of Serbian paramilitary units, he was aware of the torture and inhumane treatment of war prisoners but, in spite of that, he was himself involved in the inhumane treatment of village guard members and Croatian police members, thus injuring Željko Hunjek, Alfons Tutić, Vladimir Zimić and Marjan Polenus and causing the death of Srećko Manđini, Željko Bulić and Eugen Lapčić. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
During the original trial, the charges against the first defendant Stojan Vujić and the second defendant Dobrivoje Pavković were dropped in the absence of evidence, pursuant to Article 354, Item 3 of the ZKP. The Supreme Court reversed the case for a retrial, deeming as unacceptable the conclusions of the first instance court on the absence of evidence that the defendants had committed the criminal offence with which they were charged, because those reasons are not of such nature as to dispute the validity of statements primarily given by the witnesses who had seen and recognized both defendants.
The repeated procedure was conducted against the defendant Dobrivoje Pavković, as the criminal procedure against the first defendant Stojan Vujić, who was unavailable, was separated due to the reason of purposefulness.
In the repeated procedure, out of the total of 17 witnesses, the following witnesses testified against the defendant: witness Vladimir Zimić stated he was absolutely certain that the defendant Pavković shot him in the legs on the day in question; witness Mirko Joščak stated that the defendant Pavković was among some 20 members of Serbian paramilitary units who had tied them, and beat them with rifle butts and boots while they were lying on the road; witness Zdravko Joščak stated he had heard from others that the defendant was among the members of Serbian paramilitary units who beat them and abused them. The Court fully accepted the validity of the statements given by witnesses Klimeš, Halupecki, Mlinarić and Ružička, who had disputed the defendant’s alibi by stating that on the day of attack on the village of Doljani, they did not see the defendant Dobrivoje Pavković in the village or by the local grocery store. Namely, during the criminal procedure, not a single piece of evidence was presented that would indicate reasons for any of the witnesses to give false testimonies against the defendant Pavković. Namely, these witnesses stressed in their statements that the village of Doljani was a home to multinational population as a fact that strengthened good relations between the villagers. The statement of the witness Dušanka Pavković helped resolve doubts about some crucial facts in the logical and cognitive sense. Namely, she confirmed having spoken to the defendant on the day when an armored vehicle of MUP drove through the village, which was the day after the crime was committed according to some of the witness statements and the defendant’s presented defense.
The Court explained the grounds on which it had established that the defendant, who had a mutual agreement with other perpetrators about this criminal act, was aware of the torture and inhumane treatment of war prisoners (three of whom were killed) and that the defendant was involved in it himself, acting with intent. Thus he committed a criminal offence against humanity and International Law – war crime against war prisoners.During the main hearing, no violations of provisions of the ZKP were observed. The Council President informed the defendant on his legal rights and duties, presided over the main hearing professionally and with focus, ensured that the case of the procedure was extensively discussed but, at the same time, took care that it was run economically.Likewise, she properly recorded witness statements into the minutes of the court hearing. The time that the defendant had spent in detention from 16 to 19 December 2003 and from 7 November 2007 onwards was calculated into the pronounced sentence.

Crime in Petrinja

Repeated trial against the defendant Jovo Begović for a war crime against civilians – described and punishable pursuant to Article 120, paragraph 1 of the Basic Criminal Law of the Republic of Croatia (hereinafter: the OKZ RH), was conducted before the War Crimes Council of the Sisak County Court.

The first criminal procedure against Jovo Begović was conducted before the Sisak District Court. The verdict No. K-10/93 of 27 April 1993 was passed, in which the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was arrested in Germany and, on the basis of an Interpol arrest warrant, extradited to the Republic of Croatia. He filed a request for re-opening of the procedure. The Extra-Trail Chamber of the Sisak County Court, at the session held on 17 March 2006, passed the Ruling No. Kv-53/06, which granted Jovo Begović’s request for re-opening of the criminal procedure, quashed the verdict and reversed the case to the investigation stage.

On 21 July 2006, the Sisak County State’s Attorney’s Office (hereinafter: the ŽDO) issued the indictment No. K-DO-12/06 against the defendant Jovo Begović for a war crime committed against civilians in Petrinja on 2, 16 and 21 September 1991.

INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

On 21 July 2006, the Sisak County State’s Attorney’s Office issued the indictment No. K-DO-12/06 against the defendant Jovo Begović. The defendant is charged that on 2, 16 and 21 September 1991 in Petrinja, during the artillery attacks on Petrinja commanded by Slobodan Tarbuk, commander of the 622nd motorized JNA brigade, in the capacity of commander of the 1st division of 82 mm mortars which was a part of the 1st motorized battalion of the 622nd motorized JNA brigade located at the polygon of the “Vasilj Gaćeša” military barracks in the area of Gavrilović Kosa, although aware that there were no HV units or other military units that could attack the military barracks in Petrinja, nor there were military units that could defend the town of Petrinja against attacks, the defendant, having received the order by the mortar squad commander Đuro Samardžija to attack the town of Petrinja and its civilian population, complied to that order. Thus, contrary to the provisions of Article 3 of the Geneva Convention from 12 August 1949 relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in the Time of War and Article 51 of the 2nd Protocol Additional to the Geneva Convention, the defendant issued the order to mortar operators in the composition of his division to open fire at civilian population in the town of Petrinja and at the housing, utility and other important facilities in Petrinja. His subordinate soldiers carried out his order and several inhabitants of Petrinja were killed during the attacks. The following persons were killed: Nikola Lokner, Štef Bučar, Đuro Marković, Milan Klarić and Alojz Mouča. The following persons sustained severe and light physical injuries: Ramiz Halerić, Rajko Đurinčić, Mirko Bunjan, Angelina Banadinović, Nikola Drakulić, Đuro Vujatović, Rajko Vujaković, Branko Ceković, Ljubica Ceković, Janko Kovačević, Marijan Popović, Zvonko Dumbović, Ivan Vidović and others. During those attacks, several housing, utility, religious and other facilities in the town of Petrinja were devastated and destroyed, including almost all housing buildings in the centre of Petrinja, the Petrinja Municipal Court, the “Saint Katarina’s” church, the “Saint Lovro’s” church and other facilities.

The defendant is charged that, having violated the rules of the international law at the time of an armed conflict, he killed civilians whereby he committed a criminal act against humanity and international law – a war crime against civilians, described and punishable in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH.

During the repeated procedure, the factual description of the indictment was modified on two occasions on 23 April 2007. The modified indictment charged the defendant that on 2 September 1991, in the capacity of a mortar operator, having received the order by the mortar squad commander Đuro Samardžija to attack Petrinja and its civilian population, he complied to that order which resulted in the death of Štef Bučar, injuries to several persons and destruction of several housing, utility, religious and other facilities in the town of Petrinja, including almost all housing buildings in the centre of Petrinja, the Petrinja Municipal Court, the “Saint Katarina’s” church, the “Saint Lovro’s” church and other facilities.
MONITORING REPORTS

The procedure was conducted before the War Crimes Council comprising: Judge Melita Avedić, Council President, Judge Višnja Vukić, Council member, Judge Danko Kovač, Council member.

The first two hearings were held on 1 December 2006 and 19 December 2006. The evidence procedure was completed on 23 April 2007.

A monitoring report is contained in the following document:

 

VERDICT

On 25 April 2007, the defendant Jovo Begović was found guilty and sentenced to 5 years in prison.

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia (at the public session held on 30 January 2008) upheld the verdict of the Sisak County Court in which the defendant Begović was found guilty and sentenced to 5 (five) years in prison.