Crime in the villages Selkovac and Šatornja


On 14 November 2008, the War Crimes Council of the Sisak County Court reached and announced a verdict wherein the charges of committing a war crime against civilians under Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH were dropped against the defendant Mile Letica.

The indictment of the Sisak County State Attorney’s Office, No. K-DO-21/06, of 1 August 2008, was charging Siniša Martić, nicknamed «Šilt», and Mile Letica, with a war crime against civilians pursuant to Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH.

Following the decision of the War Crimes Council, the criminal procedure against the defendant Mile Letica was separated from the criminal procedure against the defendant Siniša Martić, nicknamed «Šilt», who is fugitive from justice and has been unavailable to the Croatian judiciary.
INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The Indictment is available in Croatian language here (in Cratian).

The Indictment No. K-DO-21/06 issued by the Sisak County State Attorney’s Office on 1 August 2008, modified on 1 October 2008  and 14 November 2008 charges the defendant Mile Letica with the following crimes:

– on 18 September 1991, contrary to Articles 3, 13, 32, 33 and 53 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War adopted of 12 August 1949, and Article 4 paragraphs 1 and 2, Articles 13 and 16 of Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), of 8 June 1977, while acting as the commander of the 2nd regiment of the Territorial Defence of Glina, ordered members of his unit to launch a heavy mortar and rifle fire attack on the positions of the Croatian military and police forces in Šatornja. This attack began including the positions of Croatian armed forces in the village and the civilian establishments. The defendant knew that the civilian population of Croatian ethnicity resided in the village and that the probability was great that such attack would cause destruction of houses and of farming facilities. Although the defendant had power and authority to prevent this attack, he took no action and thus by carrying out the mentioned attack he agreed to the consequences that because of such excessive and non-selective mortar attack all houses in the village of Šatornja were destroyed, and also

– from 29 September to 3 October 1991, following the orders from the Operational Group 1 commander, General Dušan Koturović, with the purpose to seize a larger Viduševac area and to reach the river Kupa, the defendant ordered members of his unit to launch a heavy mortar and rifle fire attack including an infantry attack on the positions of the Croatian military and police forces in Donji and Gornji Selkovac. This firing and attack was materialised affecting not only the positions of the Croatian armed forces in the mentioned villages but also the civilian establishments although the defendant was aware that civilian population of Croatian ethnicity resided there and that there was a great probability that such attack would cause unnecessary killing and escape of the civilians in directions of under-attack, and destruction of houses and of farming facilities.  Despite that, although the defendant had power and authority to prevent such attack, he took no action and thus by carrying out the mentioned attack he agreed to such consequences that as the result of such excessive and non-selective mortar attack and infantry attack on the area of Donji and Gornji Selkovac, a civilian Franjo Sučec was killed and all houses were destroyed and burned down;

and thus, breaching the principles of the international humanitarian law during an armed conflict, the defendant ordered an attack on settlements, which lead to the death of one civilian, and ordered an untargeted attack affecting the civilian population;

therefore he committed a crime against the humanity and the values protected by international humanitarian law – a war crime against civilians – described and punishable pursuant to Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.
GENERAL INFORMATION

The Sisak County Court

Case file numbr: 32/08

War Crimes Council: Judge Snježana Mrkoci, Council President, judges Željko Mlinarić and Višnja Vukić, Council members

Indictment: K-DO-21/06, of 1 August 2008, modified at the main hearing of 1 October 2008 and of 14 November 2008

Prosecution: Ivan Petrkač, the Sisak County Deputy State’s Attorney

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

Defendant: Mile Letica (was detained until 14 November 2008 when the verdict was announced)

Defence: lawyers Zorko Kostanjšek and Domagoj Rupčić

Victim: Franjo Sučec; the names Franjo Klobučar and Andrija Grgić were left out in the modified indictment of 14 November 2008
TRIAL MONITORING REPORTS

SELKOVAC AND SATORNJA monitoring reports in Croatian language

A total of five main hearing court sessions were held on 1, 2 and 3 October 2008 and on 13 and 14 November 2008.

The Sisak County State Attorney’s Office issued the indictment No. K-DO-21/06 of 1 August 2008 against the defendants Siniša Martić and Mile Letica.
At the first court session of the main hearing, the defence of the defendant Mile Letica proposed the criminal procedure against his client to be separated from the criminal procedure against the defendant Siniša Martić who was at large. The Sisak County Deputy State’s Attorney objected to this proposal. By way of a Decision, pursuant to the provisions of Article 30, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH, the Trial Council separated the criminal procedure against the defendant Mile Letica from the criminal procedure against the defendant Siniša Martić.

At the first court session of the main hearing (1 October 2008), the Sisak County Deputy State’s Attorney stated precisely the legal description of the criminal act referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.

During the evidence procedure, personal and material evidence was presented.
The following witnesses were heard: Vlado Crnković, Zlatko Školneković, Kata Šantek, Milan Đukić, Petar Sužnjević, Mirko Lapčević, Marijan Pereković, Luka Sučec, Milan Drekić, Stjepan Radočaj, Slavko Strgar, Mirko Kruhović, Slavko Sučec, Vlado Gregorić, Veljko Milojević, Zoran Rula, Brako Djaković, Mate Kruhović and Nikola Čavić.
Testimonies were read of the following witnesses: Stevo Borića, Luka Šantek, Đurđa Leskovac, Srećko Ostojić, Luka Pereković, Đuro Turopoljac, Adam Lazić and Ilija Jandrić.
Also read was the documentation under the title „Personality: Commander“ of 29 September 1991; Bulletin No. 3 of 7 October 1991, of 11 November 1991 and Bulletin No. 5 of January 1992.

At the court-session for the main hearing, held on 14 November 2008, the Sisak County Deputy State’s Attorney modified the indictment.
The defendant pleaded not guilty for the criminal act charged by both the first indictment and the modified indictment. At the same hearing, the defendant presented his defence. The Sisak County Deputy State’s Attorney stated in his summing-up that it was evident from the course of the evidence procedure that the defendant committed a criminal act as was stipulated in the indictment, and therefore he proposed the Court to find him guilty and sentence him according to the law.
Defence lawyers of the defendant stated that no evidence was found during the evidence procedure that the defendant Mile Letica committed a criminal act as charged with the indictment. Lawyer Domagoj Rupčić referred to the provisions of Geneva Conventions and of the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions in his summing-up. Defence lawyer Zorko Kostanjšek analysed the presented evidence and stated that exactly from the course of the evidence procedure it was evident that it was not proven that his client issued an order, that it was not proven how and when the damage was caused and that it was not proven that an excessive use of force had been ordered. Furthermore, he stated to be proven that Franjo Sučec died after the attack on Selkovac, because at the moment of the attack, when other population was no longer in the village, Franjo Sučec stayed alive in the village.
VERDICT

On 14 November 2008, the President of the War Crimes Council announced and clarified briefly the verdict wherein the indictable offences against the defendant Mile Letica were dropped.

Detention against the defendant was suspended and the Court ordered the defendant to be released from detention.

In a brief clarification, the President specified that in respect of the not-guilty verdict primary importance was given to the fact that the Council established that the commanding level allocated to the defendant was a lower commanding level when compared to the level which qualifies for the category of commanding responsibility as that laid down by law.

 

OPINION OF THE MONITORING TEAM

War Crimes Council of the Sisak County Court reached a verdict No. K-32/08, of 14 November 2008 which acquitted the defendant Mile Letica from the charges pursuant to the provisions of Article 354, item 3 of the Criminal Procedure Act, for failing to prove that the defendant committed the criminal act he was charged with.

The trial was open for the public. The Council rejected a proposal by the defence counsel to have the trial closed for the public for the purpose of protecting the defendant’s personal and family life.

Passing the not-guilty verdict, the Court established that the defendant Mile Letica, at the critical period, was in a paramilitary unit and was a commander of the 2nd regiment of the Territorial Defence of Glina and that an attack was carried out on the villages of Šatornja and Gornji and Donji Selkovac by the paramilitary units supported by the JNA forces at the critical period. However, it was established in the quoted verdict that the Court did not undoubtedly establish that the defendant Mile Letica was the one who was responsible for the attack on the mentioned villages, i.e. that acting as a commander of the 2nd regiment of the Territorial Defence of Glina he ordered those attacks. The Court could not determine whether the defendant with his regiment performed combat actions that would lead to destruction and burning-down of the houses and farming facilities in Gornji and Donji Selkovac and that would lead to a death of a civilian Franjo Sučec.

When reaching the not-guilty verdict: „the assessment of this Court is that in this specific case there was even no evidence found that the commanding level held by the 2nd defendant Mile Letica as the commander of the 2nd regiment of the Territorial Defence of Glina was on such a high level which would have powers and authorities to initiate all military forces that participated in the attack on those villages or to prevent the same in destruction of facilities and killing of civilians upon the entering of the mentioned villages“.