Trial against Emil Črnčec, Tihomir Šavorić, Antun Novačić, Robert Precehtjel, Nenad Jurinec, Goran Gaća and Robert Berak, for a war crime against war prisoners, as described and punishable in accordance with Article 122 of the OKZRH. INDICTMENT (SUMMARY) Indictment of the Zagreb County State Attorney’s Office no. K-DO-287/09 of 18 June 2010, charges the aforementioned defendants that, in their capacity as members of the 7th Guard Brigade of the Croatian Army (HV), in the wider area of Mlinište in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 9 and 10 September 1995, they took away members of the Republika Srpska Army imprisoned during the “Maestral 2” military action (Radoslav Lakić, Pero Vidović, Petar Jotanović, Dragoslav Mutić, Borislav Vukić and one more unidentified male person), in the village of Halapić to the headquarters of the 7th HV Guard Brigade and, by following the orders of the brigade commander, now-late Ivan Korade, they confined them there in the barn nearby the headquarters office for the purpose of execution; the next day, following the now-late Ivan Korade’s order to execute the prisoners, the 1st defendant Črnčec and the 2nd defendant Šavorić fired from their personal weapons at Radoslav Lakić and Pero Vidović, as a result of which they died; the 3rd defendant Novačić, the 4th defendant Precehtjel and the 7th defendant Berak by following the now-late Korade’s order formed a firing squad, opened automatic rifle fire and executed Petar Jotanović and unidentified male person; whereas war prisoners Dragoslav Mutić and Borislav Vukić were handed over to the members of Artillery Battery of the 3rd Battalion of the 7th HV Guard Brigade in the central place of the battery in Mlinište where the 3rd defendant Novačić, the 4th defendant Precehtjel, the 5th defendant Jurinec, the 6th defendant Gaća and the 7th defendant Berak killed them by firing multiple shots from automatic rifles, and thus, by violating the international law rules they were killing war prisoners and therefore committed a criminal offence against humanity and international law – a war crime against war prisoners – as described and punishable according to Article 122 of the OKZRH. GENERAL INFORMATION Zagreb County Court Case file number: K-rz-1/10 War Crimes Council (panel): judge Marijan Garac, President of the Council, judges Rajka Tomerlin Almer and Zdravko Majerović, Council Members Indictment: no. K-DO-287/09 of 18 June 2010 issued by the Zagreb County State Attorney’s Office. Prosecution: Jurica Ilić, Zagreb County Deputy State’s Attorney Criminal offence: war crime against war prisoners under Article 122 of the OKZRH Defendants: 1st defendant Emil Črnčec, 2nd defendant Tihomir Šavorić, 3rd defendant Antun Novačić, 4th defendant Robert Precehtjel, 5th defendant Nenad Jurinec, 6th defendant Goran Gaća, 7th defendant Robert Berak The defendants are held in custody from 28 October 2009. Defence: – lawyer Željko Olujić representing the 1st defendant, – lawyers Zvonimir Hodak and Tanja Vranjican Đerek representing the 2nd defendant, – lawyers Ana Marija Gospočić and Laura Valković representing the 3rd defendant, – lawyer Gordana Grubeša representing the 4th defendant, – lawyer Marko Zečević representing the 5th defendant, – lawyer Emir Midžić representing the 6th defendant, – lawyer Stipica Akrap representing the 7th defendant, Victims (killed): Radoslav Lakić, Pero Vidović, Petar Jotanović, Dragoslav Mutić, Borislav Vukić and one unidentified male person TRIAL MONITORING REPORTS Click here to read in Croatian the trial monitoring reports on the Mlinište case. VERDICT On 24 October 2011, the War Crimes Council of the Zagreb County Court found five defendants guilty. Tihomir Šavorić and Nenad Jurinec are sentenced to six years and Antun Novačić is sentenced to five years in prison. Robert Precehtjel and Robert Berak are sentenced to two years each for aiding and abetting the crime. The 1st defendant Emil Črnčec and the 6th defendant Goran Gaća are acquitted. Detention against Šavorić, Jurinec and Novačić who are sentenced with the first-instance verdict (verdict before appeal) is extended. After the pronouncement of the verdict, detention was vacated in respect of Precehtjel and Berak, including also Črnčec and Gaća who are acquitted. The public session of the Supreme Court of the RoC was held on 6 May 2013. We are not familiar with the decision.
The Sisak County State’s Attorney’s Office (hereinafter: the ŽDO) issued the indictment No. K-DO-3/06 on 4 September 2006 against the defendant Rade Miljević. The defendant is charged that, on 20 September 1991 in Glina, as a member of illegal military forces of the so-called “Serb Autonomous Region (SAO) Krajina”, using the circumstances of armed rebellion in that area, contrary to the provisions of Article 3 of the 4th Geneva Convention from 12 August 1949 relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and Article 4, items 1 and 2 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Convention of 8 June 1977 relative to the Protection of Victims of Non-international Armed Conflicts (Protocol 2), together with an unidentified number of armed and uniformed, unknown members of the same military forces, took away from the Glina Prison detained civilians Janko Kaurić, Milan Litrić, Borislav Litrić and Ante Žužić. Under the pretext of sending them to the Knin Prison, they took the detainees to the Pogledić Hill where they killed the detainees using firearms.
The defendant is charged that, having breached the rules of the international humanitarian law during an armed conflict, he killed civilians, whereby he committed a criminal act against humanity and international humanitarian law – a war crime against civilians, described and punishable pursuant to Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH.
The indictment was amended at the main hearing held on 9 May 2007. County Deputy State Attorney altered the factual description of criminal offence so that the defendant is now charged that, based on his previous agreement with the members of reconnaissance group of Joso Kovačević, he took the injured persons out of the prison and surrendered them for execution.
Sisak County Court
Case number: K 14/12
War Crimes Council (in the second repeated trial): judge Melita Avedić, President of the Council; judges Alenka Lešić and Željko Mlinarić, Council members
Indictment: issued by the Sisak ŽDO, No. K-DO-03/06 of 4 September 2006, modified at the main hearing held on 9 May 2007
Prosecuting attorney: Marijan Zgurić, Deputy Sisak County State Attorney
Criminal act: war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH
Defendant: Rade Miljević
Defence counsels: Zorko Konstanjšek, a lawyer practising in Sisak; Domagoj Rupčić, a lawyer practising in Sisak; Veljko Miljević, a lawyer practising in Zagreb
Victims – killed civilians: Janko Kaurić, Milan Litrić, Borislav Litrić, Ante Žužić
The defendant’s attorney-in-fact: Darko Rogan, a lawyer practising in Zagreb
POGLEDIĆ monitoring reports 2006-2007 (in Croatian)
POGLEDIĆ monitoring reports 2008 (in Croatian)
Following the repeated procedure which commenced on 28 March 2008 and which was, compared to the first trial, held before another War Crimes Council of the Sisak County Court, a verdict was announced on 17 December 2008 in which the defendant Rade Miljević was found guilty of committing the criminal act with which he was charged, i.e. that on 20 September 1991 he took away from the Glina Prison detained civilians Janko Kurić, Milan Litrić, Borislav Litrić and Ante Žužić and, for the purpose of their liquidation, handed them over to an unidentified number of armed unknown persons who waited for the detainees in front of the Glina Prison, took them to the Pogledić Hill near Glina where they killed them with bullets fired from firearms.
The verdict was adopted following a repeated procedure.
Namely, the Supreme Court of the RoC quashed the verdict passed on 18 June 2007 in which the defendant was sentenced to 14 years in prison. The Supreme Court assessed that the facts were incompletely and erroneously established and ordered the first instance court to once again present all evidence, particularly witness testimonies that were contrary to each other; it also ordered the facts to be established on the basis of these presented evidence.
In the repeated procedure which commenced on 28 March 2008 and which was completed on 17 December 2008, 11 hearings were held, during which a total of 24 witnesses were heard. The defendant was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
However, the Supreme Court quashed the verdict of the Sisak County Court of 17 December 2008 and reversed the case to the first instance court for a re-trial before another War Crimes Council.
You can read the report from the public session of the Supreme Court here. (in Croatian)
|The main hearing in the third (second repeated) trial began on 25 October 2010.|
POGLEDIĆ monitoring reports (in Croatian)
On 13 June 2007, the War Crimes Council of the Sisak County Court announced a verdict in which Rade Miljević was found guilty of a criminal act with which he was charged in the indictment and sentenced him to 14 years in prison.
The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia quashed the verdict of the War Crimes Council of the Sisak County Court due to erroneously and incompletely established facts.
On 17 December 2008, a verdict was announced in which the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Detention against the defendant was extended.
The Panel of the Supreme Court, at the session held on 9 June 2009 quashed the verdict of the War Crimes Council of the Sisak County Court and reversed the case for a re-trial before another Council.
You can read an overview and opinion of the monitoring team following the conducted first procedure before the first instance court here. (in Croatian)
OPINION OF THE MONITORING TEAM FOLLOWING THE CONCLUSION OF THE FIRST INSTANCE PROCEEDINGS
The criminal procedure against the defendant Rade Miljević held before the Sisak County Court was conducted correctly. However, we wish to warn of the following:
The original indictment issued by the County State Attorney’s Office charged the defendant with participating in the killing of civilians although this did not follow from the evidence stated in the indictment. There was no closed set of indications, let alone any evidence indicating that the defendant participated in the execution of the prisoners in any way, nor that he executed them himself.
During the evidence procedure, the Court rejected a great amount of the evidence proposed by the defence. In our view, rejections of some of the proposed evidence were not sufficiently argumented in the verdict. Also, we believe that the verdict did not clearly explain which of the «circumstances indicated that» the defendant knew that the prisoners were going to be executed after they were taken away from the prison in Glina. If the defence files an appeal on these grounds, it is questionable whether the Supreme Court will find that the facts have been fully established.
Further, during the procedure the defending attorney received a written threat and warned the Court that there was an obvious pressure on the witnesses. However, the Court rejected his proposition to exclude the public from the hearings.
As the Court did not use a separate room for witnesses, there were occasions when witnesses discussed and commented on their statements.
In addition, this procedure brought to light another case of a trial in absentia that had been held before the Sisak County Court (case number K-23/93), in which the accused Ranko Pralica and Stanko Palančan were convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. As the court-appointed attorney did not appeal against the decision to the Supreme Court, the verdict reached by the County Court became legally valid after the expiry of the appeal period. Ranko Pralica and Stanko Palančan were convicted of two war crimes against civilians pursuant to Article 142, Paragraph 1 of the Penal Law of the Republic of Croatia. The factual grounds of Item 2 of the verdict stated that the injured person Borislav Litrić died in the prison from beating injuries he had received. However, in the trial against the defendant Miljević, the Court established that Borislav Litrić was taken away from the prison by Rade Miljević, along with the other three injured persons, and was then executed on a hill near Glina.
It remains to be seen whether the Sisak County State Attorney’s Office, which issued both these indictments, will exercise the right to request a repetition of the trial against Ranko Pralica and Stanko Palančanin, given that the presented personal evidence as well as the findings and opinion of medical expert witnesses on the cause of death of the injured person Borislav Litrić indicated that he died from gunshot wounds and not injuries from physical abuse, on the count of which they were legally convicted.
Centre for Peace, Non-Violence and Human Rights in Osijek
Civic Committee for Human Rights, Zagreb
CRIME IN MEDAK (GOSPIĆ)
Trials in Serbia
Verdict after appeal
On 23 June 2010, the Higher Court in Belgrade found guilty defendants Milorad Lazić, Mirko Marunić and Nikola Konjević for war crime against POWs, committed in Medak near Gospić in 1991. Defendant Perica Đaković was acquitted. On 19 January 2011, the Belgrade Appeals Court rendered the judgment in which it upheld the first instance judgement in respect of Milorad Lazić, Mirko Marunić and Nikola Konjević, and quashed the judgement and remanded the case for retrial in respect of Perica Đaković.
After the repeated trial, on 1 July 2011 the Belgrade Higher Court pronounced the judgement in which Perica Đaković was acquitted against. The judgement became final.
The Indictment of 6 October 2009 issued by the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor of the Republic of Serbia charges Milorad Lazić, Perica Đaković, Nikola Vujnović, Mirko Marunić and Nikola Konjević that, in the Militia station of the so-called SAO Krajina from 3 to 8 September 1991 they tortured detained Croatian Police Member Mirko Medunić and thus committed the war crime against POWs referred to in Article 144 of the Criminal Code of the Socialistic Republic of Yugoslavia.
The Indictment is available in Croatian on our Website.
On 2 June 2010, the Prosecutor dropped charges against Nikola Vujnović.
On 23 June 2010, the Higher Court Chamber pronounced the first-instance judgement in which defendants Lazić and Konjević were sentence to 3 years each, and defendant Marunić to 2 years in prison. Defendant Đaković was acquitted.
On 19 January 2011, the Belgrade Appeals upheld the first-instance judgement in respect of Milorad Lazić Mirko Marunić and Nikola Konjević, and quashed it and remanded the case for retrial in respect of Perica Đaković.
After the repeated trial, on 1 July 2011 the Higher Court in Belgrade pronounced the judgement in which Perica Đaković was acquitted against. The judgement became final.
On 23 November 1995, the Osijek County State Attorney’s Office issued the indictment No: KT-93/94 against Iso Horvat et al. for criminal offence of genocide stated in Article 119 of the OKZ RH.
On 04 April 1996, the same county state attorney’s office issued the indictment No:KT-93/94 against the accused Svetozar Bošković et al. for criminal offence of genocide stated in Article 119 of the OKZ RH.
The indictment was merged on 17 March 1997.
Following the ruling passed by the extra-trial chamber of the Osijek County Court, two criminal proceedings were merged in order to conduct the joint proceedings.
Subsequent to the motion dated on 19 February 2002, the indictment was amended so that the accused persons were charged with commission of criminal offence of war crime against civilians stated in Article 120, Paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH.
Osijek County Court
Case No: K-73/95, K-46/05 (repeated trial)
War Crimes Council (judges’ panel): judge Damir Krahulec, Council President; judge Ante Kvesić, Council member; lay judges Stanislava Karnaš, Ljubica Kotromanović and Nada Kovačević, Council members.
-in the repeated trial: judge Damir Krahulec, Council President; judge Zvonimir Tomaković, Council member; judge Katica Krajnović, Council member.
Prosecutor: Željko Krpan, Osijek County Deputy State Attorney
Criminal offence: genocide stated in Article 119 of the OKZ RH, after amendment to the indictment: war crime against civilians stated in Article 120, Paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH
Accused persons/Defendants: Iso Horvat, Branislav Poznanović, Dušan Horvat, Đorđe Vujčić, Jakša Ubavić, Aleksandar Huba, Jovan Mihajlović, Dušan Maličić, Slobodan Nikolić, Vidoja Bošković, Svetozar Bošković and Savo Bošnjak
Defence Counsels: Milenko Ilić, lawyer from Osijek, court-appointed legal counsel; in the repeated trial: Miroslav Šatlan, lawyer from Osijek, legal counsel authorised by the accused Savo Bošnjak
– victims whose houses were damaged by bursts of fire from automatic weapons or damaged by explosive devices: Dragutin Švogor, Joso Burazer, Milka Novoselac, Antun Milak, Antun Lukić, Frane Petković, Ignac Matoš, Slavko Marton, Josip Đurkas, Mirko Kuhar, Marija Horvatić, Josip Bugarin, Slavko Milak, Branko Leskovar, Slavek Lovrek, Martin Pilinger, Antun Ceglec, Stjepan Piskač, Mirko Ceglec, Marko Marton, Mirko Rohtek, Milan Copak and Antun Lukić
– victims who were ordered to perform forced labour: Mirko Ceglec, Josip Jambović, Nenad Marton, Ivan Podgorelec, Mirko Rohtek, Antun Ceglec, Milan Novoselac, Vlado Bugarin, Mirko Horvatić, Maca Copak, Eva Bugarin and Frane Petković
– illegally arrested victims who were physically and/or mentally abused: Dragutin Švogor, Antun Lukić, Nedjeljko Copak, Goran Milak, Milan Novoselac, Vlado Bugarin, Mirko Horvatić, Frane Petković, Šime Petković, Ivica Švogor, Slavek Lovrek, Boris Pilinger, Josip Kapoši, Joso Burazer, Antun Milak, Igor Milak and Dragan Samardžić
– victims held as hostages: Dragutin Švogor, Joso Burazer, Filip Bugarin, Milan Novoselac, Nedjeljko Copak, Vlado Bugarin, Frane Petković, Slavek Lovrek, Antun Milak, Mirko Rohtek, Milan Copak, Stjepan Punčec, Ivica Švogor, Zdravko Kokanović, Nenad Marton, Mirko Ceglec, Ivan Podgorelec and Josip Jambrović
– victims who were laid off and lost their jobs because of their “inappropriate ethnicity” (non-Serb ethnicity): Mirko Horvatić, Slavek Lovrek, Mirko Horvat, Marijan Ceglec and Frane Petković
– victims whose houses were burnt down: Ivan Batina, Dragutin Banić, Antun Kramar, Stevo Kovačević, August Mikulek, Marijana Mikulek and Antun Krčmar
– expelled from Branjina: 297 inhabitants of Branjina of Croat ethnicity
According to the Osijek County Court’s verdict dated on 14 May 2002, the accused persons were found guilty as charged that, after the (Serb) occupation of Baranja, in the Baranja’s village of Branjina, with the majority population of Croat ethnicity, starting with August 1991 and lasting until August 1994, they joined and took over the power in Branjina by forming the so-called Branjina Territorial Defence Headquarters with the intention of expelling Croats and making Branjina an ethnically uniform and “clean” Serb village, they were making decisions and undertaking the activities by which the entire Croat population was exposed to physical and mental abuse which was facilitated by:
– imposing the limitations to freedom of movement by placing the whole area under curfew and strictly forbidding the movement in the village during the night, by introducing the documents i.e. passes for leaving the village, and forbidding the meetings and visits among the Croat population;
– forced drafting of Croats into the so-called Territorial Defence with threats of being killed or expelled from the village if they disobey the draft order;
– night-time shootings, firing rifle grenades, planting explosive devices and throwing hand grenades into the houses and commercial facilities belonging to Croats;
– ordering the Croats to perform forced labour (with no fee);
– illegal arresting and taking the Croats to the (Branjina) Territorial Defence Headquarters for interrogation and physical and mental abuse;
– taking adult Croats as hostages during ongoing military operations and threatening to kill them in retaliation – 10 Croats to be killed for each Serb soldier killed in action and 5 Croats for each Roma soldier killed in action;
– direct threats to kill members of Croat population unless they moved away and left their property in Branjina;
– making indirect death threats by writing warning messages on the houses and fences belonging to Croats and making telephone calls with threats to kill the Croats receiving the calls;
– making the lists of the employed Croats, declaring those Croats ethnically unfavourable, and by submitting those lists to the Baranja’s companies with a request to terminate employment with the named persons;
– burning down the houses and commercial facilities belonging to Croats;
– plundering the Croats’ houses and misappropriation of their valuable movable property;
– depriving the Croats of any rights they were entitled to as inhabitants of Branjina;
– forcing the Croats to sign the statements upon their eviction/expulsion claiming that they were voluntary relinquishing all of their property to the newly established (Serb) authorities in the village;
which all caused almost entire Croat population (297 persons) of Branjina to be intimidated by the terrorising and to leave their homes, property and all movable property behind, which was looted after they were expelled, while the inhabitants of Branjina moved to the free area of the Republic of Croatia, and Branjina was thus ethnically cleansed of Croat population.
According to the Osijek County Court verdict passed on 14 May 2002, the first-accused Iso Horvat and the second-accused Branislav Poznanović were sentenced to 15 years in prison each. Dušan Horvat, Đorđe Vujičić, Jakša Ubavić, Aleksandar Huba, Jovan Mihajlović, Dušan Maličić, Slobodan Nikolić, Vidoja Bošković, Svetozar Bošković and Savo Bošnjak were sentenced to 13 years in prison each.
The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia on 24 February 2004 granted the appeal lodged by the accused Savo Bošnjak, quashed the first-instance court verdict section in respect of Bošnjak and remanded the case referring to Bošnjak to the first-instance court for retrial.
The appeals lodged by other accused persons were dismissed as unfounded by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia which upheld the first-instance court verdict in respect of those persons.
Criminal procedure was conducted before the War Crimes Council of the Zagreb County Court against the defendant Slobodan Davidović, member of the paramilitary unit “Scorpions”, charged with a war crime against civilians in 1995 in Trnovo (execution of six civilians) and a war crime against war prisoners in 1991 in Bobota. The defendant was validly sentenced and is currently serving a prison sentence in the duration of 15 years.
The indictment No. K-DO-182/05 of 8 September 2005 charged the defendant Slobodan Davidović that, on a precisely unidentified day in July 1995, in the vicinity of the village of Trnovo in Godinska bara area, the Republic of BiH, as a member of the paramilitary unit “Scorpions” commanded by Slobodan Medić, acting contrary to the rules of the international humanitarian law during an armed conflict, together with an unidentified number of unknown members of the “Scorpions” unit, after they apprehended and deprived of liberty minors Azmir Alispahić, Safet Fejzić and four other young male persons, they brought them in a truck and killed them by shooting them in the back from automatic rifles. In count 2 of the indictment Slobodan Davidović was charged that, during the night between 30 and 31 October 1991 in Bobota, in an improvised prison, as a member of the paramilitary unit “Scorpions”, acting contrary to the rules of the international humanitarian law, together with an unidentified number of unknown members of the “Scorpions” paramilitary unit, he beat and insulted detained Croatian defenders.
Modification of the indictment
Zagreb County Court
War Crimes Council: Judge Miroslav Šovanj, Council President; Judge Dušanka Zastavniković-Duplančić, Council member; Judge Marin Mrčela, Council member
Indictment number: K-DO-182/05, issued by the Zagreb County State’s Attorney’s Office on 8 September 2005
Prosecuting attorney: Ivan Plevko, Deputy Zagreb County State’s Attorney
Criminal act: war crime against civilians (Article 120, paragraph 1 of the Basic Criminal Law of the RoC – hereinafter: the OKZ RH) and a war crime against war prisoners (Article 122 of the OKZ RH).
Defendant: Slobodan Davidović
Defence counsel: Nenad Sarta, a lawyer practising in Zagreb
– killed: Azmir Alispahić, Safet Fejzić, an unknown young male person, an unknown young male person, an unknown young male person, an unknown young male person.
– tortured: Željko Junačko
Below you will find reports from trials.
Trnovo and Bobota – reports (in Croatian)
President of the War Crimes Council of the Zagreb County Court, Judge Miroslav Šovanj, pronounced on 29 December 2005 a non-valid verdict in which the defendant Slobodan Davidović, member of the paramilitary unit “Scorpions”, was found guilty of committing a war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 and a war crime against war prisoners referred to in Article 122 of the Basic Criminal Law of the Republic of Croatia. In relation to the first count of the indictment, the Council sentenced the defendant to 14 years in prison, while in relation to the second count of the indictment to 9 years in prison. He was pronounced a joint prison sentence in the duration of 15 years.
The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia upheld the verdict and thus it became final.
FINAL OPINION OF THE MONITORING TEAM
The criminal procedure lasted for three months.
The first count of the indictment was based exclusively on the video recording of execution of Bosnian civilians because none of the heard witnesses had direct information about the crime. Due to that reason, in the more precisely specified indictment, June 1995 was stated as the time when the crime was committed, although it is a well known fact that the killed civilians were victims of the Srebrenica genocide that was committed in July 1995. Before the end of that procedure, a criminal procedure was initiated before the War Crimes Council of the District Court in Belgrade against other members of the “Scorpions” unit. In order to establish all facts relating to this crime, because we are talking about the same factual and legal description of the act, it will be necessary to establish cooperation between the State Attorney’s Office of the Republic of Croatia and the War Crimes Prosecution of the Republic of Serbia.
Full analysis is contained in the enclosed document.
The Požega County Court pronounced a (non-final) first instance court verdict on 13 March 2009 which found the defendants Damir Kufner, Davor Šimić, Pavao Vancaš, Tomica Poletto, Željko Tutić and Antun Ivezić guilty of war crime against civilians pursuant to Article 120, paragraph 1 of the Basic Criminal Law of the Republic of Croatia (hereinafter: OKZRH).
On 23 March 2010, the Supreme Court quashed the verdict of the Požega County Court War Crimes Council because of procedural omissions.
The case was transferred to the Osijek County Court.
The main hearing before the Osijek County Court began on 30 September 2010. The verdict was pronounced on 13 June 2011.
The VSRH upheld the first instance verdict.
The indictment charges the defendants with a war crime against civilians, committed on the premises of the fishing hut in the village of Marino Selo (Ribnjaci) in the period between November 1991 and February 1992, during the defence of the wider Pakrac region from the attacks of the paramilitary units formed by a group of rebellious Serbian inhabitants and the adjoining units of the so-called Yugoslav National Army (hereafter YNA). The defendants Damir Kufner, the founder and official commander of the Military Police Squad attached to the 76th Independent Batallion of the Croatian National Guard, and Davor Šimić, the nominal commander of the Squad, are charged with breaching the conventions of the International Humanitarian Law and committing the following crimes:
· The first accused is charged with ordering the inspection of houses of Serbian civilians in search of hidden arms, and then arrest and detention of those civilians in an improvised prison, while failing to inform members of the Squad about the conventions of the International Humanitarian Law. He thus allowed ill-treatment of the imprisoned civilians and their physical and psychological abuse, which resulted in death of 17 civilians, while six civilians survived.
· The second accused is charged with failing to take measures to prevent ill-treatment and physical and psychological abuse of the imprisoned civilians despite his awareness of the inhumane treatment they were subjected to. He thus approved of the consequences of such treatment, i.e. death of the imprisoned civilians.
· The defendants Pavle Vancaš, Tomica Poletto, Željko Tutić and Antun Ivezić, all members of the mentioned Squad, are charged with torture and physical and psychological abuse of precisely named imprisoned civilians, beating them on repeated occasions (on different days and in various circumstances) to death.
All defendants have been held in detention pursuant to Article 102, Paragraph 1, Item 4 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (applied in cases of extremely serious circumstances of the crime).
The indictment was modified on 18 February 2009. A modified indictment is available on Croatian only.
The Požega County Court
Osijek County Court – in the repeated trial
Case No: K 11/08; Krz – 48/10 – in the repeated trial
War Crime Council:
judge Predrag Dragičević, Council President; judges Jasna Zubčić and Žarko Kralj, Council members
– in the repeated trial:
judge Zvonko Vrban, President of the Counci, judge Miroslav Rožac, Council member, judge Darko Krušlin, Council member
Indictment No: K-DO-14/07, issued by the Požega County State Attorney’s Office on 12 August 2008, modified on 18 February 2009 ; Osijek County State Attorney’s Office, No. K-DO-48/10 of 28 June 2010.
Prosecuting attorney: Božena Jurković, the Požega County Deputy State’s Attorney; in the repeated trial Zlatko Bučević, the Osijek County Deputy State’s Attorney
Criminal offence: a war crime against civilians pursuant to Article 120, Paragraph 1 of the Penal Law of the Republic of Croatia
Defendants: Damir Kufner, Davor Šimić, Pavao Vancaš, Tomica Poletto, Željko Tutić and Antun Ivezić
Defence attorney representing the 1st accused: Jovan Doneski, a lawyer from Garešnica; in the repeated trial Jadranka Sloković, a lawyer from Zagreb
Defence attorney representing the 2nd accused: Marko Dumančić, a lawyer from Osijek
Defence attorney representing the 3rd accused: Željko Damjanac, a lawyer from Požega
Defence attorney representing the 4th accused: Branko and Olivera Baričević, lawyers form Požega; in the repeated trial Dubravko Marjanović, a lawyer from Osijek
Defence attorney representing the 5th accused: Gordana Grubeša, a lawyer from Zagreb
Defence attorney representing the 6th accused: Domagoj Miličević and Valentina Gacik, lawyers from Požega
Attorney-in-fact of the injured person Milka Bunčić: Luka Šušak, a lawyer from Zagreb
Attorney-in-fact of the injured persons Jovo and Mijo Krajnović: Zoran Novaković, a lawyer from Zagreb
– tortured and abused: Branko Stanković, Krajnović Mijo and Jovo (from village Kip), Bunčić Milka, Jeka Žestić and Nikola Ivanović (from village Klisa)
– tortured, abused and killed from village Kip:
Mijo Danojević – body found in Marino Selo on 17 November 1991
Gojko Gojković – body found in the area between Pakračka Poljana and Marino Selo on 25 December 1991
Savo Gojković – taken away from the detention, was buried by survived civilians
Branko Bunčić – body found in the area between Parkačka Poljana and Marino Selo on 5 December 1991
Nikola Gojković – body found on 5 December 1991
Mijo Gojković – body found in the area between Pakračka Poljana and Marino Selo on 25 December 1991
Filip Gojković – taken in direction of Ilova, where lost without trace
Jovo Popović – Tein – body found in the area between Parkačka Poljana and Marino Selo on 5 December 1991
Petar Popović – taken away from the detention, was buried by survived civilians
Nikola Krajnović – body not found
Milan Popović – taken away from the detention, was buried by survived civilians
– tortured, abused and killed from village Klisa:
Jovo Popović Simin – body not found
Slobodan Kukić – taken in direction of Ilova, where lost without trace
Rade Gojković – body not found
Savo Maksimović – body not found
Josip Cicvara – body found on 5 December 1991
Note: Although on page 5, in paragraph 5 of the Indictment No. K-DO-14/07 issued by the Požega County State’s Attorney’s Office on 12 August 2008, it is stated that on 25 December 1991, in the area between Pakračka Poljana and Marino Selo the dead bodies of Gojko Gojković and Mijo Gojković were found, on pages 39 and 40 in the clarification part of the quoted Indictment (which was presented to the Centre for Peace monitors as late as 2 December 2008) the information about the victims is different:
– dead body marked with no 5 was the body of Josip Cicvara (violent death),
– dead body marked with no. 6 was the body of Jovo Popović(violent death).
On the basis of Article 102, paragraph 1, item 4 of the Criminal Procedure Act (for particularly serious circumstances of committing the criminal offence), detention was ordered against the defendants in February and in March 2008.
Main hearing commenced on 28 October 2008.
By pleading on the modified indictment, the defendants pleaded not guilty for the criminal offence charged and they presented their defence.
On 8 December 2008 and on 12 February 2009, the Osijek County Court conducted an out-of-court hearing of the witnesses via a video-conference link.
On 22 December 2008, a detention against the 2nd defendant Davor Šimić and the 3rd defendant Pavao Vancaš was cancelled. However, the Croatian Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Požega County Court and ordered a detention of the defendant Šimić. On 17 February 2009, the detention of the 2nd defendant Davor Šimić was cancelled again.
On 13 March 2009, the verdict of guilty was pronounced against the defendants.
The defendants were sentenced to the following prison terms:
– the 6th defendant Antun Ivezić was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment.
On the occasion of the verdict’s announcement, the detention order against the defendant Kufner was vacated.
On 23 March 2010, the Supreme Court quashed the verdict of the Požega County Court War Crimes Council because of procedural omissions. You can see the report on the session Appellate Panel of the Supreme Court here (in Croatian).
On 13 June 2011, the War Crimes Council of the Osijek County Court pronounced the verdict in which the 1st defendant Damir Kufner was acquitted, the charges against the 2nd defendant Davor Šimić were rejected, the 3rd defendant Pavao Vancaš was acquitted, the 4th defendant Tomica Poletto was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison, the 5th defendant Željko Tutić was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison and the 6th defendant Antun Ivezić was acquitted.
The VSRH upheld the first instance verdict.
THE OPINION OF THE MONITORING TEAM FOLLOWING THE CONDUCT OF THE FIRST INSTANCE TRIAL
The first-instance court trial was held at the Požega County Court against six members of the former platoon of Military Police of the 76th Battalion of the Croatian National Guard for illegal detention, abusing and killing of civilians of Serb ethnicity from the hamlets of Kip and Klisa in the village of Marino Selo near Pakrac.
According to the (non-final) first-instance court verdict, pronounced on 13 March 2009, the defendants were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms.
Although they had been indicted and found guilty according to the command responsibility, defendants Damir Kufner and Davor Šimić were sentenced, by applying the provisions on mitigation of penalty, to prison sentences below the mandatory minimum prescribed for criminal act of war crime against civilians.
The defendant Kufner was sentenced to a joint prison sentence in duration of 4 years and 6 months, whereas the defendant Šimić was sentenced to one year in prison. The defendant Šimić has spent in custody the amount of time which almost equals the duration of the prison sentence passed on him by the first-instance court verdict.
Other defendants, direct perpetrators of the crime, were found guilty and sentenced to following prison terms: Pavao Vancaš – 3 years; Tomica Poletto – 16 years; Željko Tutić – 12 years; and Antun Ivezić – 10 years.
However, according to the provisions of the Basic Penal Code of the Republic of Croatia, prison sentence in duration of 16 years, which was passed on the defendant Poletto, cannot be pronounced by court whatsoever. Namely, provisions in the general section of the mentioned Code prescribe that a prison sentence cannot be shorter than 15 (fifteen) days or longer than 15 (fifteen) years, while a prison sentence in duration of 20 years may be pronounced for the most serious and grave forms of a criminal act committed with intention. Prison sentence in duration between 15 and 20 years cannot be imposed whatsoever.
The Croatian judiciary did receive the materials from the ICTY investigation teams which had been investigating the crimes committed against persons of Serb ethnicity in vicinity of Pakrac and the specific activities of the members of the reserve units of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Croatia, commanded by Tomislav Merčep, in his capacity as Assistant to the Minister of Interior of the Republic of Croatia at the time concerned.
During the pre-investigatory proceeding which was carried out in Bjelovar and the investigation proceeding which was conducted in Požega, a well founded suspicion that they had committed the crime of killing eighteen civilians of Serb ethnicity in Marino Selo was cast on the members of the Military Police Platoon of the 76th Battalion under the command of Damir Kufner and Davor Šimić.
Since the moment the investigation was launched, all aforementioned defendants were remanded in custody. During the main hearing, after the modification of indictment and after the prosecution dropped a part of the charges, defendants Davor Šimić and Pavao Vancaš were released from custody. The defendant Damir Kufner was released from custody at the sentencing hearing, right after the announcement of the verdict, since he received the prison sentence in duration below 5 years.
During the five-month trial, 55 witnesses were heard; the three witnesses out of those 55 are the injured parties who survived the detention in Marino Selo. Two surviving victims were testifying via video conference link. The two surviving victims were giving their testimonies in the District Court building in Belgrade, while the War Crime Council, parties at the trial, and defence lawyers were located in the Osijek County Court building, since the Požega County Court does not possess the required technical equipment for audio/visual transmission.
In addition to the above mentioned technical flaw, the courtroom at the Požega County Court, in which the trial was conducted, is too small for multiple-defendants trial and the trials which attract a lot of public attention.
In the courtroom, the witnesses were giving their depositions standing in the close vicinity of the audience (public), which was putting additional pressure and burden onto the witnesses, since some of the representatives of Homeland war veterans’ associations and some local politicians were also sitting in the audience who came to the trial to support the defendants with their presence.
The witnesses did not receive any psychological support or protection whatsoever. Although some of the witnesses stated that they had received threats and that they were scared to testify, there was only one single injured party who testified following the exclusion of the public.
In case of a possible repetition of the trial before an altered War Crime Council, either in this case or some other war crime trial, it is questionable, considering the number of judges, whether the Požega County Court would be able to constitute another, new Council, which would comprise of three judges with previous experience in criminal branch. If the mentioned proves to be impossible, the case would have to be delegated i.e. referred to some other county court. This issue is actually one of the reasons why we are advocating for the war crime trials to be conducted exclusively at the county courts in Zagreb, Split, Rijeka and Osijek.
 By application of the Law on Juvenile Courts, the defendant Antun Ivezić, who was 19 years old at the time when the crime was committed, could receive the maximum penalty of up to 12 years of imprisonment.
Trial against Fikret Abdić for criminal offences of war crime against civilians stated in Article 120, Paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH and war crime against prisoners of war stated in Article 122 of the OKZ RH.
The indictment No:KT-224/95 issued by the Higher Public Prosecutor in Bihać, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 08 August 1996.
Based on Article 34 of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Croatia, the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovin, and the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Legal Assistance in Civil Issues and Criminal Matters dated on 26 February 1996, the stated indictment was accepted by the Rijeka County State Attorney’s Office, and shortly after that also by the Karlovac County State Attorney’s Office, following the Republic of Croatia Supreme Court’s ruling No:II 4-Kr 327/01-3 dated on 15 June 2001 which appointed the Karlovac County Court as having the territorial and actual jurisdiction over the case.
Karlovac County Court
Case No: K-6/01
War Crimes Council (judges’ panel): judge Jasminka Jerinić-Mušnjak, Council President; judge Željko Udier, Council member; lay judges Milka Martinjaš, Đurđa Slavica and Ivica Gračan, Council members
Prosecutor: Aleksandar Mitić, Karlovac County Deputy State Attorney
Criminal offence: war crime against civilians stated in Article 120, Paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH, and war crime against prisoners of war stated in Article 122 of the OKZ RH
Accused person/Defendant: Fikret Abdić, attending the trial
Defence Counsels: Davor Popović and Zvonko Žaja, lawyers from Karlovac
On 31 July 2002, the Karlovac County Court pronounced the first-instance verdict which found the accused Fikret Abdić guilty as charged. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the criminal offence of war crime against civilians, and 15 years in prison for the criminal offence of war crime against prisoners of war, so he received a joint sentence of 20 years in prison.
On 30 March 2004, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia dismissed the appeal lodged by the accused Abdić as unfounded and upheld the first-instance court judgement.
However, when deliberating on the third-instance court verdict, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia on 08 February 2005 partially accepted the appeal lodged by the accused Fikret Abdić and amended the sentencing sections of the first-instance court verdict and the second-instance court verdict – thus pronouncing 14 years in prison for the criminal offence of war crime against civilians and 10 years in prison for the criminal offence of war crime against prisoners of war, so Abdić was pronounced a joint sentence of 15 years in prison.
Trial against Željko Prica and Stipo Tomić, charged with a war crime against prisoners of war referred to in Article 122 of the OKZRH.
TRIAL AT FIRST INSTANCE
Gospić County Court
Defendants: Željko Prica and Stipo Tomić, available
According to the Gospić County Court’s verdict No. K-12/02 of 24 April 2003, the accused persons Željko Prica and Stipo Tomić were found guilty that they maltreated confined members of Croatian formations in the prison in Frkašić.
Prica was sentenced to 6 and Tomić to 5 years in prison.
SUPREME COURT VERDICT
According to the Croatian Supreme Court’s (VSRH) verdict of 5 October 2004, the first-instance verdict was modified in the part determining the sentence wherein defendant Prica was sentenced to 8 years in prison and defendant Tomić to 6 years in prison.
The VSRH verdict No. I Kž 629/03-3 of 5 October 2004 can be read in Croatian here.
Trial against Vladimir Korica and Branko Banjeglav, charged with a war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.
THE TRIAL AT FIRST INSTANCE
Gospić County Court
Case file No.: K-13/96
Judges’ panel: judge Pavao Rukavina, presiding, judge Matilda Krunić, member, lay judges Josip Grivičić, Nikola Galac and Božo Babić, members
Criminal offence: war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH
Defendants: Vladimir Korica and Branko Banjeglav, unavailable
Defence Counsel: Nenad Mamula, lawyer practicing in Karlovac
– killed: Kata Nikšić
– wounded: Marija Nikšić and Mato Nikšić
According to the Karlovac County Court’s verdict No. K-13/96-6 of 27 February 1997, the defendants were found guilty as charged that they participated in September 1991 in the attack and occupation of Široka Kula, the village with mostly Croatian ethnicity population and during that attack they firstly destroyed the village and then maltreated its inhabitants-civilians – inflicted injuries by knife to Marija Nikšić and Mato Nikšić and killed Kata Nikšić with shots fired from automatic rifle.
The defendants were sentenced to 12 years in prison each.
The Verdict can be read in Croatian here.
THE VSRH VERDICT
On 29 May 1997, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia rejected the appeals lodged by defendants Korica and Banjeglav as unfounded and confirmed the verdict rendered by the court of first instance.
The VSRH Verdict No. I Kž-165/1997-3 of 29 May 1997 can be read in Croatian here.
Trial against Svetozar Karan, charged with a war crime against prisoners of war referred to in Article 122 of the OKZRH.
TRIAL AT FIRST INSTANCE
Gospić County Court
Case file no.: K-4/03
Judges’ panel: judge Branko Milanović, presiding, judge Dušan Šporčić, member, lay judges Dundović, Tomo Dokozić and Ivan Kocijan, members
Indictment: no. K-DO-15/02 of 27 February 2003 issued by the Gospić ŽDO, amended at the main hearing held on 30 July 2003
Criminal offence: war crime against prisoners of war referred to in Article 122 of the OKZRH
Defendant: Svetozar Karan, available
Defence counsel: Toni Vukičević, lawyer practicing in Split
Victims – maltreated: Nikola Nikolić, Mile Lukač, Ivan Čajić and Ivan Dadić
According to the Gospić County Court’s Verdict No. K-4/03-185 of 30 July 2003, defendant Svetozar Karan was found guilty as charged that:
- in Korenica from 23 October until 27 November 1991, in his capacity as member of the reserve formation of “Militia SAO Krajina”, together with other members of Militia, he was beating war prisoners Nikola Nikolić and Mile Lukač;
- in his capacity as member of the Military Policy Squad of the 15th Corpus of the so-called the RSK Army, and commander of the prison guards’ shift located in the primary school in Frkašić, from the beginning of December 1994 until February 1995, he was beating detained members of HV, HVO and the BiH Army, he was giving the dormitory keys to the Serb ethnicity prisoners who were then entering the dormitories and by following his orders were beating the prisoners, in particular detained members of HV Ivan Čajić and Ivan Dadić.
For the criminal offence under count (1), he was sentenced to 5 years in prison, and for the criminal offence under count (2) he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Therefore, he received a joint prison sentence of 13 years imprisonment.
The Gospić County Court’s Verdict No. K-4/03-185 of 30 July 2003 can be read in Croatian here.
THE VSRH DECISION
On 29 January 2004, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia accepted the appeal lodged by defendant Karan, quashed the first-instance verdict and remanded the case back to the first-instance court for a retrial before a completely changed composition of the council.
The VSRH Verdict No. I Kž 862/03-8 of 29 January 2004 is available in Croatian here.
REPEATED FIRST-INSTANCE PROCEEDINGS
Karlovac County Court
Case file no.: K-4/04
War Crimes Council: judge Jasminka Jerinić Mušnjak, Council President, judges Milan Kosijer and Vesna Britvec, Council Members
Defendant: Svetozar Karan, available
Defence Counsels: Toni Vukičević, lawyer practicing in Split and Čedo Prodanović, lawyer practicing in Zagreb
Victims – maltreated: Nikola Nikolić, Mile Lukač, Ivan Čajić and Ivan Dadić
According to the Karlovac County Court’s Verdict No. K-4/04-282 of 30 June 2005, defendant Svetozar Karan was found guilty again. In respect of the second count of the indictment (and of the verdict) it was established that the defendant acted in capacity as member of the Military Police Squad and as a guard, but not as guard commander.
For the criminal offence under the count (1), he was sentenced to 5 years in prison. The defendant was also sentenced to 5 years in prison for the criminal offence under the count (2). Therefore, he received a joint sentence of 7 years of imprisonment.
THE VSRH VERDICT
On 7 February 2006, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia rejected as unfounded the appeal lodged by defendant Svetozar Karan and confirmed the verdict of the court of first instance.
The VSRH verdict No. I Kž 953/05-7 of 7 February 2006 is available in Croatian here.
The Verdict No. K-4/03-185 of 30 July 2003 rendered by the Gospić County Court in its explanation (on page 23) contained the following:
“The Court also did not accept the defendant’s defence regarding his, as he stated, voluntary return to Croatia, for the reason that the defendant returned back to the crime scene, where he committed the crime, although he knew that the persons whom he was beating had not been allowed to look at him during this beating, so he concluded that they practically could not have possibly seen him, let alone recognise him, and besides this what he did had been committed long time ago and therefore the injured parties had forgotten much of it. At the same time worth mentioning is that it can only be concluded that the defendant figured out that Croatia was in such a bad shape and that soon it would simply disappear, because Croats are not satisfied with their status, that it could easily come to disagreement among them and because of that they would soon seek for someone to become its burden, as was the case for almost 900 years, and the defendant and his ancestors were someone else’s burden in the last 80 years and enjoyed it well, so why wouldn’t he [the def. ] come again when there is a good chance that he would regain that position, because Croatia, when assessed from the outside, is certainly facing a collapse, and this is a moment when “Memorandum” can fully be fulfilled, and the fulfillment of which almost occurred. Vojvodina, Srijem and half Bosnia is already occupied, and the other half would be easily handled, what is only left is the ‘line’ Virovitica, Karlovac, Karlobag – this is the reason why the criminals who committed crimes in Croatia are returning back, when in reality they are the ones who committed genocide against Croats and this not only in this war, but together with others they were committing those crimes for over 500 years since the arrival of Turks, when together with them they were coming and destroying Croats, and after ‘joining’ these regions to Yugoslavia they practically destroyed them in certain areas and their aim is to occupy areas as far as the Osman reached it, and together with Osmans as far as the defendant and his ancestors reached it, and what would be left of Croatia is only “the residues of the residues of Croatia”. In addition to this and the crimes committed by the defendant, he was practically awarded because all what he possessed he took to Serbia, with (continued on page 24) others he destroyed one half of Croatia, and returned to receive award from the Croatian state, and Croatia is expected to reconstruct if something was destroyed to him, while at the same time Croatia has neglected its volunteers who fought for freedom and refugees who escaped from the ‘knife’ that we all know whose it is, and someone has to be in charge of the people returning back and, among others, this is the defendant. One of the reasons why the defendant returned is to finalize Croatia’s destruction, because the state which is exhausted economically is the state which would easily give in and surrender itself to mercy of the others, and this is award for the crime which he committed and for this reason he returned to the Republic of Croatia.
This is the reason why the court did not accept the defendant’s defence, and because of the aforementioned reasons too, therefore the court undoubtedly established that the defendant committed the crime as stated in the ordering part of the verdict.”