Crime in Lovinac

In the case number K-49/06, the second repeated trial has begun against the defendants Radoslav Čubrilo, Milorad Čubrilo, Milorad Žegarac, Petar Ajduković and Gojko Mrkajlo before the Rijeka County Court. The defendants are prosecuted for a war crime against civilians pursuant to Article 120, Paragraph 1 of the Penal Law of the Republic of Croatia.

Following the recess exceeding three years and the prosecution’s dropping the charges against all defendants except the 1st defendant Radoslav Čubrilo,the main hearing has had to start anew in 2011.

The Rijeka County Court rendered the first-instance verdict in the case of Radoslav Čubrilo and sentenced him to 15 years in prison for war crime against civilians committed in Lovinac in May 1991.

THE INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

According to the indictment, on 5 May 1991, Radoslav Čubrilo, Milorad Čubrilo, Milorad Žegarac, Petar Ajduković and Gojko Mrkajlo launched a mine attack on the village of Lovinac and then barged into the village burning residential and economic houses, killing one villager (civilian Milan Sekulić) instantly, taking six villagers away, and killing five villagers later (civilians Stjepan Katalinić, Jura Sekulić, Marko Pavičić, Ivan Ivezić and Martin Šarić).

On these counts the defendants are charged with a war crime against civilians, punishable pursuant to Article 120, Paragraph 1 of the Penal Law of the Republic of Croatia.

Following the recess exceeding three years and the prosecution’s dropping the charges against all defendants except the 1st defendant Radoslav Čubrilo,the main hearing has had to start anew in 2011.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Rijeka County Court

Case No: K-48/06

War Crime Council: Juge Srebrenka Šantić, Council President; Judge Dragan Katić, Council member; lay magistates Ivan Šuflaj, Marijan Peranić and Milan Draginić, Council members.

On 14 May 2007, the main hearing started before a changed Council, consisting of Judges Saša Cvjetić, Council President, Duško Abramović and Vlado Skorup, Council members. The change in the constitution of the Council was conducted is in accordance to the Law on the Application of the Statute of the International Criminal Court and Prosecution of Crimes Against the Values Protected by the International Humanitarian Law,

Indictment No: K-DO-53/06, issued by the Rijeka County Court and altered at the court session of 17 September 2006

Prosecuting attorney: Darko Karlović, the Rijeka County Deputy State’s Attorney

Criminal offence: a war crime against civilians pursuant to Article 120, Paragraph of the Penal Law of the Republic of Croatia

Defendants (all in absentia): Radoslav Čubrilo, Milorad Čubrilo, Milorad Žegarac, Petar Ajduković, Gojko Mrkajlo

Court-appointed defence lawyers: Alen Bilić, lawyer from Rijeka; Goran Marjanović, lawyer from Rijeka; Đuro Vučinić, lawyer from Rijeka; Ivan Čerin, lawyer from Rijeka; Milenko Škrlec, lawyer from Rijeka

Attorney-in-fact of the injured persons: none

Victims:
– the executed: Stjepan Katalinić, Jure Sekulić, Marko Pavičić, Ivan Ivezić, Martin Šarić, Milan Sekulić
MONITORING REPORT

This is the second repeated trial in the criminal procedure which first started in 1994. The defendants are tried in absentia. Namely, on 24 November 1992, the Gospić County State Attorney’s Office issued the indictment number KT-45/92, charging seven persons with a war crime against civilians pursuant to Article 120, Paragraph 1 of the Penal Law of the Republic of Croatia. Thus far, the Gospić County Court has announced two non-final verdicts. With the latter non-final verdict the Court convicted the defendants Radoslav Čubrilo, Gojko Markajlo, Milorad Čubrilo and Petar Hajduković and sentenced them to 20 years in prison, while the defendant Milorad Žegarac received a prison sentence of 15 years. The defendants Bogdan Šobat and Bogdan Čubrilo were acquitted of all charges in the indictment.

However, the Supreme Court ordered a repetition of the trial on both occasions.

The case number Kž-847/1994 was also returned for a repeated trial before the Gospić County Court, but the Supreme Court decided to delegate the case to the Rijeka County Court (following the decision number IKž 573/00) due to an insufficient number of judges at the Gospić County Court to form a new council. The Supreme Court also ordered a repeated examination of all witnesses as well as a thorough analysis of their statements and the links among them.

Pursuant to Article 20 of the Criminal Procedure Law, the Rijeka Couny Court formed a Council before which the trial was held until 14 May 2007. However, he Council comprised of two professional judges and three lay magistrates, which was not in accordance with Article 13, Paragraph 2 of the Law on the Application of the Statute of the International Criminal Court and Prosecution of Crimes Against the Values Protected by the International Humanitarian Law (NN 175/03), which prescribes that the council of the county court presiding over a war crime trial should comprise of three professional judges with experience in most complex cases.

The Court thus breached this law, but there were no objections to the composition of the Council.

Since 14 May 2007, the trial has been held before a Council composed of three professional judges from the Rijeka County Court, which is in accordance with the Law on the Application of the Statute of the International Criminal Court and Prosecution of Crimes Against the Values Protected by the International Humanitarian Law. The judges are, however, from the civic law department.

The main hearing of the second repeated trial began on 17 October 2006. The indictment was altered at the first court session.

So far, 28 witnesses have been examined (Mile Račić, Manda Račić, Anka Katalinić, Ivan Katalinić, Karlo Sekulić, Ivka Sekulić, Mile Matajić, Željka Ivezić, Ivan Šarić, Manda Ivezić, Dane Pavičić, Ivan Pavičić, Petar Sekulić, Mirko Horvatin, Marko Bobinac, Ivan Grgat, Josip Šarić, Mate Šarić, Pavao Krpan, Andrija Ostojić, Tomislav Latvić, Marko Župan, Pavle Račić, Pavao Račić, Marijan Matijević, Josip Vrkljan, Milan Dobrić and Luka Budak).

The medical expert witness Dr. Renata Dobi-Babić has presented her findings and given expert opinion on the death of the injured persons. The balistics expert witness Rade Stojadinović has also testified. A reconstruction of the events in the village of Lovinac has been performed showing the circumstances of the execution of the five civilians.

 

SENTENCE

The Rijeka County Court rendered the first-instance verdict in the case of Radoslav Čubrilo and sentenced him to 15 years in prison for war crime against civilians committed in Lovinac in May 1991.

MONITORING REPORT

It is perplexing that the Rijeka County Court, which has already formed a special war crime department (in accordance with the Law on the Application of the Statute of the International Criminal Court and Prosecution of Crimes Against the Values Protected by the International Humanitarian Law) to which the Supreme Court delegates war crime cases from the Gospić County Court, has failed to apply the same Law and form a War Crime Council comprising of three professional judges. Further, the judges appointed to the Council all come from the civic law department. Although Article 12, Paragraph 2 of the foregoing Law prescribes that a war crime council should comprise of «three judges who are distignuished by their expreience in working on most complex cases», not specifying which cases categorize as the most complex, we still believe that members of a war crime council should involve judges experienced in criminal cases (due to seriosness of the war crime and their understanding of the matter) and not civic cases. Thus, we wish to warn of the obvious «flaw» in this Law and the worrying situation at the Rijeka County Count which has a special war crime department to which cases from other county courts are delegated, while at the same time lacks judges experienced in criminal cases.

The court procedure for this case has been in progress since 1994. Considering that it has been a year since the last court session was held, such a long adjournment (longer than two months) means that the trial will have to start again. Although this is a case of a trial in absentia, and therefore possibly not seen as priority, it is time that the trial lasting for 14 years was brought to an end.

30 July 2008