Verdict after appeal

Crime in Široka Kula (defendant Nikola Zagorac et al.)


Trial against Nikola Zagorac, Miroslav Serdar, Dane Serdar, Dušan Uzelac, Milorad Barać, Marijan Uzelac and Dragan Vunjak, charged with a war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH

TRIAL AT FIRST INSTANCE

Gospić County Court

Case file no.: K-1/93

Judges’ panel: judge Matilda Krunić, presiding, judge Miroslava Jurjević, member, lay judges Stjepan Vukelić, Ivan Prpić and Zvonimir Zdunić, members

Indictment: no. KT-27/92 of 30 June 1992 issued by the Gospić District State’s Attorney Office

Criminal offence: war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH

Defendants: Nikola Zagorac, Miroslav Serdar, Dane Serdar, Dušan Uzelac, Milorad Barać, Marijana Uzelac and Dragan Vunjak, unavailable

Defence counsel: Stjepan Nikšić, lawyer practicing in Gospić

Victims – killed civilians: Mandica Nikšić, Vera Nikšić, Nikica Orešković, Anka Orešković, Ana Orešković, Milan Orešković, Kata Orešković and Marija Nikšić

According to the Gospić County Court’s verdict no. K-1/93-13 of 16 June 1994, the defendants were found guilty as charged that in Široka Kula during September and October 1991 in their capacity as members of Chetnik formations and militia of the so-called SAO Krajina, firing from automatic infantry weapons at civilian facilities they were restricting movement of civilian population and, on 13 October 1991, they burned down with the rifle grenade the house where civilians were sheltered in the basement, they opened fire at those civilians and killed eight of them (among them seven women).

Nikola Zagorac, Miroslav Serdar and Dragan Vunjak are sentenced to 20 years in prison each and Dane Serdar, Dušan Uzelac, Milorad Barać and Dragan Uzelac to 15 years in prison each.

The Verdict is available in Croatian here.

VSRH VERDICT

On 25 October 1994, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia rejected as unfounded the defendants’ appeals and confirmed the first-instance verdict.

The VSRH verdict no. I Kž-670/1994-3 of 25 October 1994 is available in Croatian here.

REOPENED PROCEEDINGS

According to the decision no. Kv-16/04-3 of 13 February 2004 issued by the Gospić County Court, reopening of the proceedings was allowed in the section pertaining to the convicted Dane Serdar.

Gospić County Court

Case file no.: K-5/04

War Crimes Council: judge Dušan Šporčić, Council President, judges Milka Vraneš and Branko Milanović, Council Members

Defendant: Dane Serdar, available

Defence counsels: lawyers Luka Šušak and Veljko Miljević

According to the Gospić County Court’s verdict no. K-5/04-186 of 23 September 2004, the previous verdict was repealed in the section in which Dane Serdar had been found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison. This Court rendered a verdict in which it acquitted Dane Serdar of the charges.

The Verdict is available in Croatian here.

THE VSRH VERDICT

On 16 December 2008, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia rendered a verdict no. I Kž 275/05-5 in which the State Attorney’s appeal was rejected as unfounded and the verdict rendered by the court at first instnance was confirmed.

The Verdict is available in Croatian here.

Crime in the village of Smoljanac

The War Crimes Council of the Gospić County Court repeated the trial (namely the Croatian Supreme Court, by way of decision No. I Kž 423/05 of 21 December 2006 accepted the appeal by the State Attorney and quashed the first-instance not-guilty verdict returning the case to the first-instance court for a new trial) against Nikola Cvjetićanin, accused for committing a criminal act – a war crime against civilians in the village of Smoljanac, the Plitvička jezera municipality, on 8 October 1991. On 23 January 2008, the verdict was announced by which the defendant was acquitted of charges.

Croatian Supreme Court, at its public session held on 18 February 2009, rejected the State Attorney’s appeal and upheld the first-instance court verdict.
INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The County State Attorney’s Office in Gospić was charging the defendant Nikola Cvjetićanin in the indictment no. K-DO-2/02 of 24 April 2002, modified at the main hearing held on 23 January 2008, that together and in agreement with Milan Milošević, by acting as a member of the “Udbina company” of the Territorial Defence of the so-called “SAO Krajina” and together with the members of the former JNA, he participated on 08 October 1991 in a military action of cleansing the field from Croatian population in the Smoljanac village area, which they carried out armed with automatic weapons, and he found civilians – Ana Bujadinović and Josip Matovina in front of the house no.7 in the village of Smoljanac, and contrary to Article 3 and Article 13 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949, and Article 13 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), and by aiming to kill them he fired several shots from personal armament inflicting chest gun shot perforating injuries to Ana Bujadinović and to Josip Matovina, resulting with the instant death of the injured parties, and in such a manner, thus by breaching the international humanitarian law principles, they were killing civilians and thus committed a criminal act 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).

 

 

TRIAL MONITORING REPORTS

The trial was held before the War Crimes Council of the Gospić County Court comprising: Judge Dušan Šporčić, Council President, judges Dubravka Rudelić and Milka Vraneš, Council members.

The indictment was presented by Željko Brkljačić, the Gospić County Deputy State’s Attorney.

Defence: lawyer Dušan Višnić, court-appointed defence counsel.

Victims- killed: Josip Matovina and Ana Bujadinović

 

 

VERDICT

On 23 January 2008, a verdict was announced by which the defendant Nikola Cvjetićanin pursuant to Article 354, paragraph 3 of the Criminal Procedure Act was acquitted of charges.

Croatian Supreme Court, at its session held on 18 February 2009 rejected the State Attorney’s appeal and upheld the first-instance court verdict.

The Croatian Supreme Court verdict, (in Croatian), see here.

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

The procedure against the defendant Nikola Cvjetićanin for a war crime against civilians was properly conducted.

In the repeated trial against Nikola Cvjetićanin, the Gospić County Court found the defendant not guilty of the war crime against civilians with which he was charged. This had been the third trial against the defendant in six years.

The first trial for the criminal offence of a war crime against civilians was conducted in 2002 against then the first accused Nikola Cvjetićanin and the second accused Milan Milošević. After the completed procedure, both defendants were found guilty. Cvjetićanin was sentenced to nine years in prison, while Milošević was sentenced to a long prison sentence. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction against the second accused and sentenced him to 13 years in prison. However, the first instance conviction against the first accused Cvjetićanin was dismissed and the case was returned for another trial and decision making. In the repeated trial conducted in 2004, the War Crime Council of the Gospić County Court (consisting of Judge Pavle Rukavina, Council President; and Judges Milka Vraneš and Dušan Šporčić, Council members) concluded that on the basis of the presented evidence and established facts, the defendant Nikola Cvjetićanin had not been proven guilty of a war crime he was charged with pursuant to Article 120, Paragraph 1 of the Penal Law of the Republic of Croatia. At the public session of 21 December 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the appeal of the State’s Attorney and abolished the overturned verdict, returning the case to the First Instance Court for a new trial.[1]

In reaching the decision on acquittal, the Court relied on the statement of the protected witness, which it had upheld.

As the burden of proving the guilt of the defendant lay on the prosecuting attorney, who was unable to prove during the evidence procedure that the defendant Cvjetićanin shot the injured persons and thus committed the crime described in the indictment (while managing to prove that he followed the order to step out of the procession and go back to the house where the defendant Milan Milošević held the injured persons), the Court appropriately applied the rules of the Presumption of Innocence (praesumptio innocentiae) and ‘in dubio pro reo’ (when in doubt, the court should judge in favour of the defendant) to assume the defendant’s innocence, and decided to acquit him on all charges.

However, this case will be remembered for the rejection of the protected witness to be questioned via video link, even though the link secured the visual protection of the witness and the audio protection of his voice. It is not clear why the Council President failed to utilize other possibilities to examine the witness, which would be in accordance to the Penal Law. [2]



[1] In the repeated procedure, the First Instance Court focused on evaluation of the evidence selected from the evidence record on the basis of a specifically issued decision. This decision was altered in the appeal procedure, so that the minutes of the questioning of the so called protected witness under the pseudonym «Witness No. 1» could not be taken out of the record, as it constituted a piece of unlawful evidence (the decision No. Kž-237/05 issued by the Supreme Court on 21 December 2006 broj). The Supreme Court believed that neglecting this evidence and its relation to other evidence would lead to incorrect and incomplete establishment of facts.

[2] Article 243, Paragraph 2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure prescribes a fine up to HRK 20,.000; also, a witness who has been summoned to court, but refused to testify can be detained.

Crime in Medak (defendant Milorad Lazić et al.)

Trials in Croatia

Verdict after appeal

Trial against Milorad Lazić, Perica Đaković, Nikola Vujnović, Mirko Marunić, Nikola Konjević and Savo Kuprešanin, charged with a war crime against prisoners of war referred to in Article 122 of the OKZRH.

FIRST-INSTANCE PROCEEDINGS

GENERAL INFORMATION

Gospić County Court

Case file no.: K-4/96

Trial chamber (judges’ panel): judge Pavao Rukavina, presiding; judge Matilda Krunić, member; lay judges Ankica Čatek, Josip Bašić and Ivica Marković, members

Criminal offence: war crime against prisoners of war referred to in Article 122 of the OKZRH

Defendants: Milorad Lazić, Perica Đaković, Nikola Vujnović, Mirko Marunić, Nikola Konjević and Savo Kuprešanin, unavailable

Defence: Stjepan Nikšić, lawyer practicing in Gospić

 Victim – maltreated: Mirko Medunić

On 21 October 1996, the Gospić County Court rendered a verdict in which defendants Milorad Lazić, Perica Đaković, Nikola Vujnović, Mirko Marunić and Nikola Konjević were found guilty that they, in their capacity as members of JNA and the so-called „Martić’s Militia“, from 3 to 8 September in the village of Medak, physically maltreated Mirko Medunić – a detained policeman of the PU Gospić – beating and hitting him repeatedly with hard/blunt objects, causing by knife injuries on his face, shoulders and back, caused a fracture of his forearm, zygomatic bones’ fracture, a stab wound of his shank, face slashes and forced his two teeth out.

Lazić, Đaković and Konjević were sentenced to 8 years in prison each, and Vujnović and Marunić to 6 years in prison each.

Defendant Savo Kuprešanin was acquitted of charges.

The Gospić County Court’s verdict no. K-4/96-12 of 21 October 1996 is available in Croatian on our Website.

SUPREME COURT’S VERDICT

On 10 October 2000, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia (VSRH) rejected the appeal by defendants Lazić; Đaković, Vujnović, Marunić and Konjević because if found it to be unfounded and confirmed the first-instance verdict.

The VSRH verdict no. I Kž-42/1997-3 of 10 October 2000 is available in Croatian on our Website.

Note:

Later on against available Milorad Lazić, Perica Đaković, Nikola Vunović, Mirko Marunić and Nikola Konjević for the same events, a trial was conducted in the Republic of Serbia.

Crime in Zalužnica near Otočac (defendant Mićo Dorontić et al.)

Trials in Croatia

Verdict after appeal

Trial against Mićo Dorontić, Dane Borovac, Rade Hinić, Milan Brakus, Branislav Popović, Đuro Popović, Darivoj Ivančević and Nedjeljko Milinović, charged with a criminal offence of unlawful wounding and killing enemy referred to in Article 124, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.

FIRST INSTANCE PROCEEDINGS

GENERAL INFORMATION

Gospić County Court

Case file no.: K-11/97

Trial chamber (judges’ panel): judge Matilda Krunić, presiding; judge Miroslava Jurjević, member; lay judges Nikola Milinković, Josip Bašić and Nikola Galac, members

Indictment: No. KT-370/93 of 30 September 1996 issued by the Military Prosecution in Karlovac

Criminal offence: unlawful wounding and killing enemy referred to in Article 124, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH

Defendants: Mićo Dorontić, Dane Borovac, Rade Hinić, Milan Brakus, Branislav Popović, Đuro Popović, Darivoj Ivančević and Nedjeljko Milinović; defendant Milan Brakus was the only defendant who attended the trial; the trial was conducted in absence of the other mentioned defendants

Defence: Stjepan Nikšić, lawyer practicing in Gospić represents all mentioned defendants

Victims:

– killed: Refik Mahmuljin

– wounded: Slobodan Damjanović, Smajil Mećavica, Zvonko Osvaldić and Boško Radić

On 14 October 1997, the Gospić County Court rendered a verdict in which all eight defendants were found guilty that they, in their capacity as members of rebel Serbo-Chetnik paramilitary armed units, on 28 June 1993 about 15:00 hours in Zalužnica situated in the Otočac Municipality, at the moment when they noticed the arrival of Croatian Army military truck with 11 unarmed Croatian soldiers, with intention to kill them, suddenly opened fire from infantry weapons and thus caused the killing of one and wounding five soldiers (all survived soldiers were captured and taken to the detention camp).

The defendants were sentenced to 10 years in prison each.

The Gospić County Court’s verdict no. K-11/97-64 of 14 October 1997 is available in Croatian on our website.

JUDGEMENT by the SUPREME COURT

 On 18 February 1998, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia (VSRH) rejected the appeal by the defendants because if found it to be unfounded and confirmed the first-instance verdict.

The VSRH verdict no. I Kž-597/1997-5 of 18 February 1998 is available in Croatian on our website.

The Shelling of Gospić Crime (defendant Marcel Dusper et al.)

Trials in Croatia:: verdict after appealTrial against Marcel Dusper, Tomo Čačić, Jovo Kuprešanin, Bogdan Odanović, Relja Tomić, Duško Bajić, Dane Drakula, Mićo Vasić, Goce Koneski, Slobodan Dotlić, Dragoljub Lazarević, Radovan Radenković, Bratislav Milojković, Stevo Milošević and Miloš Bogdanović, charged with a war crime against civilians referred to in Article 142 of the OKZRH.

 FIRST-INSTANCE PROCEEDINGS

GENERAL INFORMATION

Gospić District Court

Case file no.: K-5/93

Trial chamber (judges’ panel): judge Matilda Krunić, presiding; judge Miroslava Jurjević, member; lay judges Petar Pavelić, Ivanka Maoduš and Ante Vlahov, members

Indictment:  No. KT-44/92 of 26 May 1993 issued by the District State Attorney’s Office in Gospić

Criminal offence: war crime against civilians referred to in Article 142 of the OKZRH

Defendants: Marcel Dusper, Tomo Čačić, Jovo Kuprešanin, Bogdan Odanović, Relja Tomić, Duško Bajić, Dane Drakula, Mićo Vasić, Goce Koneski, Slobodan Dotlić, Dragoljub Lazarević, Radovan Radenković, Bratislav Milojković, Stevo Milošević and Miloš Bogdanović;  defendant Dane Drakula was the only defendant who attended the trial; the trial was conducted in absence of the other mentioned defendants

 Defence: Stjepan Nikšić, lawyer practicing in Gospić

 On 21 July 1993, the Gospić District Court rendered a verdict in which all the defendants except the 7th defendant Dane Drakula were found guilty.

They were found guilty that they, in their capacity as active military persons serving in the JNA, and 14th and 15th defendants (Milošević and Bogdanović) as civilians serving in the JNA in the Gospić Garrison, in the period from 30 August until 18 September 1991 in Gospić, were giving to soldiers orders to shoot civilians, schools, hospital, church and other civilian facilities around the military barracks and the town of Gospić, as part of war operations carried out by the former JNA in the Gospić area. They also engaged themselves in shooting from all sorts of artillery weapons, light machine guns, heavy machine guns and other infantry weapons, inflicting death of a larger number of civilians and extensive material damage of construction facilities.

 Defendants Marcel Dusper, Relja Tomić and Duško Bajić were sentenced to 20 years in prison each. Defendants Tomo čačić, Jovo Kuprešanin, Bogdan Odanović, Mićo Vasić, Goce Koneski, Slobodan Dotlić, Dragoljub Lazarević, Radovan Radenković, Bratislav Milojković, Stevo Milošević and Miloš Bogdanović were sentenced to 15 years in prison each. The prosecution dropped charges against Dane Drakula – the only defendant who attended the trial and the court rejected the charges against him.

The Gospić District Court’s verdict no. K-5/93 of 21 July 1993 is available in Croatian on our website.

 VERDICT by the SUPREME COURT

 On 24 February 1994, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia (VSRH) confirmed the verdict rendered by the court at first-instance.

 The decision No. I Kž 816/1993-3 of 24 February 1994 issued by the VSRH is available in Croatian on our website.

DISCONTINUED THE PROCEEDINGS AGAINST DEFENDANT SLOBODAN DOTLIĆ

The Prosecution changed legal qualification of the criminal offence stated in the indictment from the war crime against civilians into the armed rebellion. Following to that, on 30 October 2013, the Rijeka County Court applied the General Amnesty Act, rejected the charges and discontinued the proceedings against Slobodan Dotlić, who was previously apprehended, on 18 October 2013, at the border crossing between Croatia and Hungary.

 

Crime in the settlements of the Gračac Municipality (defendant Đuro Dragičević et al.)

Trials in Croatia :: verdict after appeal

Trial against Đuro Dragičević, Ivan Gnjatović and Petar Stojanov, charged with a war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.

FIRST-INSTANCE PROCEEDINGS

Gospić District Court

Case file no.: K-16/92

Trial chamber (judges’ panel): judge Matilda Krunić, presiding, judge Pavao Rukavina, member, lay judges Stjepan Vukelić, Branko Trešnjić and Ivanka Maoduš, members

Indictment: no. KT-42/92 of 20 November 1992 issued by the District State Attorney’s Office in Gospić

Criminal offence: war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH

Defendants: Đuro Dragičević, Ivan Gnjatović and Petar Stojanov, unavailable

Defence: Stjepan Nikšić, lawyer practicing in Gospić

On 23 September 1993 the Gospić District Court rendered a verdict (no. K-16/92-13) in which the defendants were found guilty that, on 4 April 1991 and onwards, the defendant Dragičević in his capacity as commander of military facilities “Krivalj” and “Metres” in Sveti Rok, and defendants Gnjatović and Stojanov as military personnel employed in these facilities, repeatedly issued orders to soldiers  that, under military operations carried out by the JNA in the area of ​​Sveti Rok, Lovinac, Ličko Cerje, Ričica in the municipality of Gračac populated exclusively by Croatian population,

were shooting people and civilian objects, prevented the supply of the mentioned villages with necessary groceries by ordering the demolition of transmission pylon leaving the population without electricity and water, prevented the evacuation of elderly and sick; urged residents to move out with the purpose of ethnic cleansing,

which resulted in the death of civilians, the complete destruction of residential and commercial buildings.

After that, they enabled the members of the Chetnik and military formations to carry out looting of movable property.

Defendants Dragičević and Gnjatović were sentenced to prison terms of 20 years each, and defendant Stojanov to a prison term of 15 years.

VERDICT by the SUPREME COURT

On 8 March 1995, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia rejected the appeal of the defence counsel representing the defendants and confirmed the first-instance verdict.

The VSRH verdict no. I Kž-935/1993-3 of 8 March 1995 is available in Croatian on our website.

Crime in Tenja

On 4 July 2008, the War Crime Council of the Osijek County Court published the verdict No. Krz – 4/08 in which the defendant Boško Surla was acquitted of charges that, in Tenja, he had committed a war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the Basic Criminal Law of the Republic of Croatia (hereinafter: the OKZ RH) and a war crime against war prisoners referred to in Article 122 of the OKZ RH.

The Osijek County State’s Attorney’s Office (hereinafter: the ŽDO) issued the indictment No. K-DO-38/2007 dated 14 January 2008 against Jovan Rebrača, Božo Vidaković, Milan Macakanja, Branko Grković, Boško Surla and Žarko Čubrilo, charging them with committing a war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH and a war crime against war prisoners referred to in Article 122 of the OKZ RH.

By a decision of the Extra-trial Council of the Osijek County Court, the procedure against the defendant Boško Surla was separated from the procedure against other defendants who are at large and unavailable to the judicial bodies of the Republic of Croatia.

 

 

 

 

INDICTMENT

The indictment issued by the Osijek ŽDO No. K-DO-38/2007 dated 14 January 2008 (the ŽDO did not modify the indictment, but it simply separated the parts pertaining to the defendant Surla) charged the defendants that, in the period between July and November 1991, in the area of the Tenja municipality, the defendant Jovan Rebrača, as commander of the Tenja Territorial Defence Headquarters, the defendant Božo Vidaković and the defendant Žarko Čubrilo, as members of the Headquarters, the defendant Branko Grković as commander of the Tenja Police Station, the defendant Boško Surla as deputy commander of the Tenja Police Station, the defendant Milan Macakanja as a member of the Territorial Defence (hereinafter: the TO), together with Mile Jajić, commander of the Civil Protection Service, during an armed rebellion of Serb population against the legal order of the RoC, after the Tenja TO, assisted by the Yugoslav National Army (hereinafter: the JNA), occupied the village of Tenja and with the newly formed militia took control over that area, contrary to the provision of Article 4, paragraphs 1 and 2, Items a and g of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), by exercising a joint decision to apply all forms of violence against the persons of non-Serb ethnicity in the occupied Tenja area, acted contrary to the provisions of the Convention, so that they:
1 b) in the period between July and November 1991 in Tenja, in the prison located at the-then “Partizan” cinema, the defendant Jovan Rebrača ordered the defendant Božo Vidaković to detain and kill civilians together with members of the TO, without any basis and grounds, simply because they were persons of non-Serb ethnicity. The prison was under jurisdiction of the Tenja militia. The defendant Božo Vidaković, with members of the TO, detained the following civilians in the cinema: Ivan Valentić, Marija Cerenko, Ana Horvat, Katica Kiš, Pero Mamić, Josip Medveda Josip and Evica Penić, Josip Prodanović, Vladimir Valentić and Franjo Burč. On an unidentified day in November 1991, the defendant Božo Vidaković, the defendant Milan Macakanja, the defendant Žarko Čubrilo and two members of the TO, assisted by the defendant Boško Surla and other members of the militia, embarked civilians on a truck, whereby the defendant Boško Surla personally brought detainees and handed them over to the defendant Milan Macakanja and members of the TO. While embarking on the truck, the defendant Milan Macakanja was hitting detainees with a baton, particularly Josip Penić and Ana Horvat. In compliance with the order, they drove detainees in the direction of the cattle graveyard near the town of Bobota, where the defendant Žarko Čubrilo killed them all by firearms,
1 c) in the period between July and November 1991 in Tenja, in the prison located at the-then “Partizan” cinema, the defendant Jovan Rebrača ordered the defendant Božo Vidaković to detain and kill civilians together with members of the TO, without any basis and grounds, simply because they were persons of non-Serb ethnicity. The prison was under jurisdiction of the Tenja militia. The defendant Božo Vidaković, with members of the TO, detained the following civilians at the cinema: Mato Nađ, Zoran Bertanjoli and the Vuko family, where the defendant Branko Grković and the defendant Boško Surla kept them in detention without any legal basis and grounds. During the imprisonment, Mato Nađ and Zoran Bertanjoli were psychologically abused and forced to eat grass in the prison yard. Members of the militia and Tenja inhabitants, who were allowed by members of the militia to beat detainees with rubber hoses, beat them on a daily basis. During their imprisonment, the defendant Branko Grković personally beat up Zoran Bertanjoli with a baton. On an unidentified day in November 1991, in the prison yard, members of the militia staged the escape attempt by Mato Nađ, after which members of the militia killed him.
1 d) On an unidentified day in November 1991, after the Tenja TO together with the JNA occupied the Orlovnjak farm, the defendant Jovan Rebrača ordered to bring and detain the farm inhabitants Ivka and Mato Krajina, Drago Balog and Rozalija Varga to the premises of the old school which were turned into a prison under jurisdiction of the Tenja militia. The defendant Branko Grković and the defendant Boško Surla kept the aforementioned civilians in the prison without any legal basis and grounds, where members of the-then militia, including the defendant Boško Surla, physically abused them by hitting them on their bodies with hands, legs and rifles.

The defendant Boško Surla is charged with committing a war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH.
2 b) On an unidentified day in November 1991, in Tenja, after members of the Croatian National Guard (hereinafter: the ZNG) Ivica Lovrić, Franjo Ciraki, Miroslav Varga and Ivan Vadlja were captured at the Orlovnjak farm and brought to the prison located in the premises of the Tenja primary school, the defendant Jovan Rebrača ordered members of the militia to abuse and kill the detained members of the ZNG. Following the order, the defendant Branko Grković and the defendant Boško Surla ordered members of the militia and the TO to physically abuse and kill the detained members of the ZNG. The prison was under jurisdiction of the Tenja militia. Following such an order, the defendant Branko Grković and the defendant Boško Surla ordered the-then members of the militia and the TO to physically abuse detained members of the ZNG in the prison premises, which members of the militia did, together with members of other paramilitary formations. Pursuant to their order, members of the militia took away Ivica Lovrić, Franjo Ciraki, Miroslav Varga and Ivan Vadlja and killed them on an, for the time being, unidentified place. The aforementioned members of the ZNG are on the list of missing persons.

The defendant Boško Surla is charged with committing a war crime against war prisoners referred to in Article 122, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH.
GENERAL DATA

The Osijek County Court

Case file No.: Krz-4/08

The War Crime Council: Judge Zvonko Vekić, Council President, Judge Josip Frajlić, Council member, Judge Drago Grubeša, Council member

Indictment No: K-DO-38/2007, dated 14 January 2008

Prosecution: Zlatko Bučević, the Osijek County Deputy State’s Attorney

Criminal act: war crime against civilians (Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH) and war crime against war prisoners (Article 122 of the OKZ RH)

The defendant: Boško Surla

Defence counsel: Igor Plavšić, a lawyer practising in Vinkovci, selected defence counsel of the defendant Surla

Injured parties: Ivka Trajković, Vera Perković, Iva Krajina, Ilija Lovrić, Eva Ciraki, Manda Vadlja, Zvonko Penić, Marija Medved, Julijana Prodanović, Lucija Valentić, Josip Valentić, Katica Milas, Dragica Valentić, Vlado Valentić, Kata Pejaković, Drago Balog, Ana Bertanjoli, Stevica Bartolović, Rozalija Varga and Mate Krajina

Victims:
– killed civilians:
Ivan Valentić, Marija Cerenko, Ana Horvat, Katica Kiš, Pero Mamić, Josip Medved, Josip Penić, Evica Penić, Josip Prodanović, Vladimir Valentić, Franjo Burča and Mato Nađ
– detained civilians: Zoran Bertanjoli, obitelj Vuko, Ivka i Mato Krajina, Drago Balog and Rozalija Varga
killed war prisoners: Ivica Lovrić, Franjo Ciraki, Miroslav Varga and Ivan Vadlja
MONITORING REPORTS

The main hearing commenced on 7 May 2008 and was concluded on 1 July 2008 after five trial sessions. A total of 44 witnesses were heard during the evidence procedure, statements of witnesses-injured parties who had in the meantime deceased were read, numerous material evidence were examined.

The procedure was properly conducted. The Council President introduced the defendant, witnesses and injured parties with their legal rights and obligations.

The first-instance acquitting verdict was published on 4 July 2008.

The defendant Boško Surla was detained from 15 May 2007 until the day of publication of the acquitting verdict; in total he spent 13 (thirteen) months in detention.

The main hearing was open to public. The procedure was monitored by: a monitor from the Centre for Peace, Non-violence and Human Rights Osijek, a monitor from the Humanitarian Law Fund from Belgrade, OSCE monitors, defendant’s family members, Ivka Trajković, daughter of the victim Marija Cerenko, Ilija Lovrić, father of the victim Ivica Lovrić, print and electronic media. The atmosphere in the courtroom was calm.

TENJA reports from the trial (in Croatian)

 

 

 

VERDICT

On 4 July 2008, the War Crime Council of the Osijek County Court published the verdict No. Krz-49/08, by which the defendant Boško Surla was acquitted of charges.

The VSRH’s Appeals Chamber held its session on 25 January 2011. At the session, the County State Attorney’s appeal was rejected and the first-instance court’s verdict was upheld.
 

 

 

OPINION OF THE MONITORING TEAM

The War Crime Council of the Osijek County Court conducted a separated criminal procedure against the defendant Boško Surla for a war crime against civilians and a criminal act against war prisoners. The War Crime Council reached the acquitting verdict due to lack of evidence, applying the principle in dubio pro reo.

This trial caused additional trauma to the injured parties and family members of the victims. Namely, the conducted investigation and issuance of the indictment against six defendants provided an outline of the crime committed in Tenja but, for the time being, this is a step which does not promise a lot to the victims – neither that a procedure will be conducted in order to prove the criminal responsibility of the defendants, nor that a place of burial of the killed victims will be revealed. Apart from the defendant Boško Surla, all other defendants named in the indictment are unavailable to the judicial bodies of the Republic of Croatia. Some defendants possess dual citizenship and live in Serbia or in Montenegro where they are protected from extradition by the current law. In order to prosecute those who gave orders, the perpetrators of the crime and those who assisted in committing the crime, it is necessary, in our opinion, that the State Attorney’s Office of the Republic of Croatia adheres to the Agreement on Cooperation in the Prosecution of Perpetrators of War Crimes against Humanity and Genocide signed with the Serbian Prosecution for War Crimes and the State Prosecution of Montenegro and hands over the evidence material against unavailable defendants so that they would be prosecuted in the countries where they reside.

Explanation

Witnesses who accused the defendant Boško Surla in their depositions given during the investigation changed their testimonies at the main hearing, i.e. they clarified them. Thus, during the investigation, witness Lazar Radišić stated that he saw militia officers “whom he remembered – Boško Surla and Pero alias “Cino”… knew that these militia officers brought an older married couple Penić….a person nicknamed “Medo the postman”, Ana Horvat and a young man from Orlovnjak from one room at the front of the cinema where they had been detained three to four days, and embarked them on a truck (in which the group of detained civilians were taken in the direction of Silaš and later killed). At the main hearing, that witness said that “neither today, nor at the time when I was giving testimony to the investigating judge, did I know which two militia officers were watching what happened but failed to react“. Witness Drago Balog stated during the investigation that Boško Surla was guarding the detained villagers in the old school, but at the main hearing he testified that he had known the defendant Surla from before, that he was detained for one day and that the defendant Surla “visited” him there, that he did not beat or torture him, but helped him.

Witnesses – injured parties did not accuse the defendant Boško Surla of abusing or threatening them or their family members, nor of ordering abuse and handing over the detained civilians or war prisoners to members of the Tenja TO. Some witnesses – injured parties stated that they did not know the defendant, while others stated that he was a member of Tenja militia, i.e. a deputy commander.

Witnesses who were members of Tenja militia or Tenja TO at the incriminating time also claimed that they did not perceived the defendant Boško Surla as a person who would order or execute detention, abuse or beating of the imprisoned civilians and war prisoners. However, they all stated that as members of the TO they were guarding facilities where prisoners were detained, but those prisons were under control of the militia.

The defence of B. Surla, which he had also presented on several occasions during the investigation, was based on the premise that he was forcibly mobilized, that was assigned to the militia force as a former police officer, that at the time of the committed crime he was not formally a deputy commander of the Tenja police station, but he was perceived so as an experienced policeman, that it was the TO and not the police that had control over the detention facilities where the TO locked detainees, and that the only link between the militia and those detention facilities was the fact that those facilities were located right next to the police station building. The defendant denied any knowledge of prisoner abuse or execution that happened in those detention facilities.

As far as presenting the evidence is concerned, many witnesses at the main hearing were heard in such a way that they were asked whether they remained with the depositions they had given during the investigation. The statements were read if the prosecutor requested so, while questions for the witnesses were asked only exceptionally. These witnesses gave no testimonies about circumstances related to the charges against the defendant Boško Surla during the investigation, so it is unclear why they were proposed as witnesses if they were not additionally questioned precisely about these circumstances.

Crime in Zrin


On 14 April 2011, the main hearing began at the Sisak County Court in the trial against Jablan Kejić, indicted for war crimes against war prisoners.

The first instance verdict was pronounced on 5 September 2011. In this verdict, the defendant Kejić was found guilty and sentenced to 7 years in prison.

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia amended the decision on the sentence issued by the first-instance court by sentencing defendant Kejić to 5 years in prison.

INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The indictment issued by the Sisak County State Attorney’s Office (ŽDO) no. K-DO-37/10 of 13 December 2010 charges defendants Jablan Kejić, Mirko Ćurčija, Milenko Milković and Momčilo Buinac that in their capacity as members of the so-called SAO Krajina armed units, after the 1st defendant Kejić arrested a wounded Croatian police member Šefik Pezerović in Kuljani, they were beating the mentioned prisoners, put him in a vehicle trunk and took him to one meadow in Zrin and killed him there by firing from firearms, thus they committed a war crime against war priosoners referred to in Article 122 of the OKZRH.

Click here to read in Croatian the indictment.

The indictment was amended at the main hearing held on 16 May 2011. The factual description was specified considering the fact that the trial against defendant Jablan Kejić who is available to the Court was separated from the trial against the other defendants.
GENERAL INFORMATION

Sisak County Court

Case file number: K-37/2010

Court council (panel): judge Snježana Mrkoci, President of the Council, judges Predrag Jovanić and Višnja Vukić, Council Members

Indictment: issued by the Sisak County State Attorney’s Office, no. K-DO-37/10 of 13 December 2010, amended at the main hearing on 16 May 2011.

Prosecution: Marijan Zgurić, Sisak County Deputy State’s Attorney

Criminal offence: war crime against war prisoners under Article 122, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH

Defendant: Jablan Kejić (the so-called “SAO Krajina” army member), kept in custody

Defence: Zorko Konstanjšek, lawyer practising in Sisak

Victim: Šefik Pezerović, war prisoner, killed
TRIAL MONITORING REPORTS

Click here read in Croatian the trial monitoring reports on the ZRIN war crime case
VERDICT

The first instance verdict was pronounced on 5 September 2011. In this verdict, the defendant Kejić was found guilty and sentenced to 7 years in prison.

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia amended the decision on the sentence issued by the first-instance court by sentencing defendant Kejić to 5 years in prison.

Crime in the Stara Gradiška prison (defendant Đorđe Božičić)

Trial against Đorđe Božičić, charged with a cruel treatment against wounded, sick and war prisoners referred to in Article 128 of the OKZ RH.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Požega County Court

Case file no.: K-13/93

Council (judges’ panel): judge Branimir Miljević, Council President; judge Ivanka Pilon-Vukelić, Council Member; lay judges Josip Đuranović, Ivan Čavar and Stjepan Živković, Council Members

Indictment: amended Indictment No. KT 2/94 of 8 September 1994 issued by the Požega District State Attorney Office

Criminal offence: cruel treatment against wounded, sick and war prisoners referred ton Article 128 of the OKZRH

Defendant: Đorđe Božičić, unavailable

Defence counsel: Julka Lučić-Prša, lawyer practicing in Požega

Victim – light physical injuries: Živko Matekalo

 

VERDICT (SUMMARY)

In the Požega County Court’s verdict of 3 April 1995, defendant Đorđe Božičić was found guilty that in his capacity as member of paramilitary formation of the so-called SAO Western Slavonija, end of November 1991 until 12 December 1991 in the Stara Gradiška prison, he participated in hearing/interrogation of detained Croatian soldiers, and Živko Matekalo among them, and also maltreated them whilst causing light physical injury (rib fracture) to Živko Matekalo.

Defendant Đorđu Božičić was sentenced to 4 years and 6 months in prison.

The verdict can be viewed (in Croatian language) here.

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia, at its session held on 26 September 1995, confirmed the verdict rendered by the court at first instance.

The VSRH verdict can be viewed (in Croatian) here.

Crime in Paulin Dvor

There is a trial against Nikola Ivanković and Enes Viteškić for committing a war crime against civilians under Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.

 

INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

On 12 March 2003, the Osijek County State Attorney′s Office laid the indictment No: K-DO-68/2002, which charged Nikola Ivanković and Enes Viteškić with criminal act against humanity and international law – war crime against civilians stated in the Article 120, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Criminal Law of the Republic of Croatia (OKZRH). Nikola Ivanković and Enes Viteškić were charged that they, as members of the 2nd Infantry company of the 1st Battalion of the 130th Brigade of the Croatian Army, together with several other unknown perpetrators, on 11 December 1991, after they had heard about the death of their wounded fellow soldier, agreed to go to the village of Paulin Dvor and retaliate by killing villagers of Serb ethnicity. They were also charged that they approached the house of Andrija Bukvić in Paulin Dvor, and after checking if those particular civilians were in that house, they opened fire on civilians using machine guns and threw hand grenades in the premises where the civilians were accommodated, thus causing death of eighteen civilians.

You can read (in Croatian) the Indictment here.
GENERAL INFORMATION

Osijek County Court

Case file number:
K-18/03 – first trial
K-08/06 – repeated trial

Court panel:

in the first trial: judge Dragan Poljak – President of the Court Panel, judge Dubravka Vučetić – Member, lay judges Zdenka Lubina, Stanislav Karnaš and Karlo Samardžija – Members

in the repeated trial: judge Zvonko Vekić – President of the War Crimes Council, judges Nikola Sajter and Branka Guljaš – Members

Indictment: No. K-DO-68/2002 of 12 March 2003 issued by the Osijek County State Attorney’s Office, partially amended at the hearing held on 5 April 2004.

Prosecution: Željko Krpan, Osijek County Deputy State’s Attorney

Defendants: Nikola Ivanković (received a final sentence to 15 years in prison; serving his sentence in prison) and Enes Viteškić (not detained and thus he attended the trial in the repeated proceedings)

Defence: lawyer Domagoj Rešetar (represents the defendant Ivanković); lawyer Davor Krtić (represents the defendant Viteškića)

Victims (killed): Milan Labus, Spasoja Milović, Boja Grubišić, Božidar Sudžuković, Bosiljka Katić, Dragutin Kečkeš, Boško Jelić, Milan Katić, Dmitar Katić, Draginja Katić, Vukašin Medić, Darinka Vujnović, Anđa Jelić, Milica Milović, Petar Katić, Jovan Gavrić, Milena Rodić, Marija Sudžuković

Attorneys-in-fact of representing the injured persons: lawyers Darko Šuper and Luka Šušak

 

THE COURSE OF THE TRIAL AND VERDICTS

On 8 April 2004, the Osijek County Court reached a verdict in which it found the defendant Nikola Ivanković guilty sentencing him to 12 years in prison, and passed a verdict of acquittal in respect of Enes Viteškić.

You can see the K-18/03 Verdict of 8 April 2004 issued by the Osijek County Court (in Croatian) here.

You can see the appeal by the Osijek County State Attorney’s Office against the Osijek County Court’s verdict (in Croatian) here.

On 10 May 2005, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia modified the first instance verdict in respect of the defendant Nikola Ivanković, in the section determining the sentence and sentenced Ivanković to 15 years in prison. In respect of the defendant Enes Viteškić, the Supreme Court quashed the first instance verdict due to erroneously established facts and reversed the case to the first-instance court for a retrial.

You can see the Supreme Court’s Decision (No I Kž 1196/04 of 10 May 2005) – available Croatian language here.

In the repeated trial before the War Crimes Council of the Osijek County Court, the defendant Enes Viteškić was acquitted of charges on 29 January 2007. The Council based its decision on the provisions of Article 354, paragraph 1, item 3 of the Criminal Procedure Act (that it was not proven that the defendant was the one who committed the crime as charged).

See the mentioned verdict (in Croatian) here.

Appeal by the Osijek County State Attorney’s Office dated 2 March 2007, see (in Croatian) here.

The session of the Appellate Panel of the Supreme Court was held on 7 September 2010. Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia quashed the verdict of Osijek County Court issued on 29 January 2007 and remanded the case for retrial to be held before completely altered panel.

The first instance judgment, in which Enes Viteškić was found guilty and sentenced to 11 years in prison, was pronounced on 17 May 2012.

The VSRH Appeals Chamber held its session on 12 February 2013. The VSRH confirmed the first-instance verdict of May 2012.

OPINION ISSUED BY MONITORS FOLLOWING THE CONCLUSION OF REPEATED TRIAL

Opinion

After the repeated trial, the Osijek County Court’s War Crimes Council did not provide a clear and founded explanation of the verdict of acquittal, and by omitting to do so, the Council ignored the reasons which had led the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia to quash the previous verdict.

In the repeated trial against Enes Viteškić, accused for war crime against civilians, stated in Article 120, Paragraph 1 of the OKZRH, committed in December 1991 by killing 18 residents of Paulin Dvor (17 persons of Serb ethnicity and 1 person of Hungarian ethnicity), the War Crime Council of the Osijek County Court reached a verdict of acquittal, based on Article 354, item 3 of the Criminal Procedure Act (there was no proof that the defendant actually did commit the criminal act he was charged for).

The verdict, as well as the explanation of the verdict, is identical to the previous one which was quashed by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia due to incorrectly established facts; the Supreme Court stated that the first-instance court had omitted numerous pieces of evidence and disregarded depositions which had been taken during the evidence procedure and argued that the first-instance court failed to thoroughly analyse evidence and depositions. The Osijek County Court was instructed to present all evidence once again in the repeated trial, and if necessary, to produce new evidence, and only then to make decision whether the act of committing a crime by defendant Viteškić was a mere indication, or was it possible to make a conclusion based on the complete set of indirectly established facts, and ascertain that Viteškić himself was an accomplice in killing of civilians in Paulin Dvor. A new verdict was supposed to be adequately and completely explained.

The War Crimes Council of the Osijek County Court had a difficult task since a possible criminal accountability of defendant Enes Viteškić regarding his involvement in the crime was supposed to be established on the basis of circumstantial evidence, by making connections between relevant facts – indications. Direct evidence is missing since defendant Viteškić (and convicted Ivanković) have denied their participation in the crime; eyewitnesses to crime did not identify the perpetrators; witnesses coming from the military, police and intelligence-security hierarchy, in their capacity as state officials were supposed to be informed on the event but claimed that they did not know the names of the perpetrators, i.e. all the persons who were actually involved in crime. Material evidence was deliberately destroyed or hidden (the house where civilians had been killed was destroyed in an explosion the day after the crime while the victims′ bodies were secretly transferred to a secondary mass grave following the arrangements of the state institutions). Witnesses were claiming that an oral command had been issued ordering them not to write reports on the crime.

The repeated trial has met formal criteria; all evidence were established (mostly the evidence which had already been established). Many witnesses have once again given depositions containing wide discrepancies between their court statements and the statements given to the investigation judge; the witnesses have reluctantly given answers in the court and claimed that they cannot remember or have no knowledge on the committed crime. The witnesses have not explained the discrepancies between their depositions. The prosecutor failed to propose direct questioning of the sole surviving witness who lives in Serbia. The prosecutor failed to request from the Court to order that the deposition given by a witness to the County Attorney be removed from Branimir Glavaš′ web site in order to protect the witness from pressure and threats. New evidence was not adduced.

In reaching its verdict, the Court has taken into consideration a majority of depositions which the witnesses gave to the investigative judge, and it deemed those depositions credible, which were providing far more information on circumstances and the very murder of civilians than the modified depositions given at the court hearing.

However, the explanation of verdict of acquittal contains only the analyses of depositions given by the same witnesses that were accepted by the Court in the previous trial, yet again, it is not clear how the Court approaches to the depositions given by other witnesses about the indications which could possibly charge defendant Viteškić, and what is the reason why the Court does not consider the information the other witnesses have about the crime as relevant, especially since the Supreme Court pointed to that issue. For example, whether it was established that the defendant:

1. was loading the dead bodies on truck, alongside with convicted Nikola Ivanković;
2. was present in Našice discotheque as a part of the group of soldiers who had been allowed by Grošelj to go to that disco prior to their transfer to another military post to guard the “Pump”, instead of receiving a punishment for the committed crime;
3. was indeed a part of the group of soldiers who were entrusted with a task of guarding the “Pump”, instead of being punished for the crime, and if he was actually sent to the mentioned military post where the perpetrators of the crime were deployed.

Actually, the explanation of verdict of acquittal, its contents, arguments and formulations, is no different from the explanation of the first-instance court verdict which was quashed by the Supreme Court, and, apparently, the explanation of verdict of acquittal is almost its copy. Therefore, a question remains whether the Supreme Court would this time make a different decision from the previous one, or if it would stick to its opinion and defend its requests stated in the cancellation decision which would lead to quashing of this verdict and sending the case back to the first-instance court for a retrial.

We would like to point out that only a complete and clear explanation of the verdict, as requested also by the Supreme Court, would be a just and correct thing to do regarding the victims of crime, the defendant, and the general public, too.

We have expected the Court to be extremely cautious in this particular case since the victims of crime in Paulin Dvor have already been depreciated on several occasions – in the moment when they were massacred, when the perpetrators returned to the crime scene to finish the victims off with knives, as well as by failure to publicly acknowledge the crime and its judicial proceedings, by covering up the crime, by hiding and transferring the victims′ dead bodies, destroying the crime scene and by persistent silence on the issue of names of perpetrators. At the time when the crime was committed, it was a crime involving a group of 6 or 8 perpetrators, who – in a moment of unacceptable weakness- willfully and brutally added to their military service a hue of a mere inter-ethnic cleansing. During the years-long period of concessions made to perpetrators by state officials – starting from the police officials and moving up to political level, the accountability for the crime has gradually, and almost undetectably, become a STATE ACCOUNTABILITY. Since the state officials were failing, or refusing, to bring the group of perpetrators to court and sanction them for committing an ethnically-motivated crime, a stigma of unpunished crime remained attached to, both, the state and the nation.

Therefore, we expect the authorities of the Republic of Croatia, after the court trial at the domestic court did establish the fact that members of the Croatian military units had committed the crime by carrying out a massacre of eighteen civilians, to provide, in the name of Croatian citizens, an appropriate symbolic damages to the killed victims and a moral and material damages to the survivors and their closest family members.

Moreover, the case of crime in Paulin Dvor has blatantly shown that the covering up of victims′ dead bodies also constitutes a war crime criminal action. We do request that the State Attorney’s Office and the courts institute proceedings against such acts by using the practice of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the regulations of the Geneva Conventions and other international acts in the area of war and humanitarian law.

Centre for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights, Osijek

Documenta, Zagreb

Civic Committee for Human Rights, Zagreb

Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights

Osijek, 10 September 2007.

The presentation and opinion on the repeated trial for the crime in Paulin Dvor, in English is available here.