Monitoring war crimes in Republic of Croatia

Crime in Ilovčak near Glina


Trial against Vladimir Bekić for a war crime against civilians under Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.
INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

Vladimir Bekić is charged that on 4 October 1991, about 12:30 hours in the area of the village of Ilovačak, near Glina, he killed civilian Milan Kapac who, at the time of enemy attack by Serb paramilitary formations, was sitting in the backyard of this house. The defendant, in his capacity as member of SAO Krajina military formations, killed the injured person by opening fire from firearms, (and the defendant knew the injured person from before), thus he committed a criminal offence referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH – a war crime against civilians.
GENERAL INFORMATION

Rijeka County Court

Case file number:

War Crimes Council: judge Saša Cvijetić, Council President

Indictment: no. K-DO-38/2005 issued by ŽDO Sisak

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

Prosecution: Igor Bijelić, Rijeka County Deputy State Attorney

Defendant: Vladimir Bekić – unavailable to Croatia judiciary, tried in his absence

Defence: lawyer Gordana Lovrić, court-appointed defence counsel

Victim – killed: Milan Kapac
MONITORING WAR CRIME TRIALS

(available in Croatian): ILOVČAK KOD GLINE izvještaji s praćenja suđenja
JUDGMENT

It could not be derived from the established facts that exactly the defendant was the perpetrator of the criminal offense as charged.However, it was indisputably established that he participated in attacks by illegal paramilitary formations targeting Croatia, its safety and constitution. Therefore, the Deputy County State’s Attorney amended the factual description and legal qualification of the indictment in the manner that now it charges the defendant with an armed rebellion under Article 236, paragraph 1 of the Criminal Law Act of the Republic of Croatia (KZRH).

Crime in Sunjska Greda

On 8 November 2010 at the Sisak County Court began the main hearing in the case of Milenko Vidak, charged with commission of war crime against civilians by killing a civilian Stjepan Sučić.
On 20 December 2010, the War Crimes Council of the Sisak County Court found the defendant guilty. He was sentenced to 8 years.

On 12 July 2011, the VSRH’s Appeals Chamber quashed the Sisak County Court’s first instance verdict due to major violations of the criminal procedure provisions and remanded the case for retrial.

On 17 April 2012, after the repeated first-instance trial, the Zagreb County Court’s War Crimes Council found the defendant guilty and sentenced him to 6 years in prison.

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

Sisak County Court

Case file number: K-14/10

War Crimes Council (panel): judge Snježana Mrkoci, President of the Council, judges of the Civil Division Predrag Jovanić and Alenka Lešić, Council members

Indictment: K-DO-36/08, of 20 September 2010 issued by the Sisak County State Attorney’s Office

Representing the prosecution: Ivan Petrkač, Sisak County Deputy State Attorney

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

Defendant: Milenko Vidak, extradited to Croatia on the basis of the decision of the Court for Serious Crimes in Trabzone in the Republic of Turkey, issued on 4 August 2009, is under detention in the Sisak prison

Defence: Domagoj Rupčić, lawyer practising in Sisak, court-appointed defence counsel

Victim: Stjepan Sučić, killed

 

Repeated first-instance trial

Zagreb County Court

Case file number:

War Crimes Council: judge Marijan Garac, Council President,

Indictment: the Sisak ŽDO, No. K-DO-36/08, of 20 September 2010

Prosecution:

 

TRIAL MONITORING REPORTS

SUNJSKA GREDA – trial monitoring reports from the main hearing (available in Croatian)

 

VERDICT

On 20 December 2010, the War Crimes Council of the Sisak County Court found the defendant guilty. He was sentenced to 8 years.

On 12 July 2011, the VSRH’s Appeals Chamber quashed the Sisak County Court’s first instance verdict due to major violations of the criminal procedure provisions and remanded the case for retrial.

On 17 April 2012, after the repeated first-instance trial, the Zagreb County Court’s War Crimes Council found the defendant guilty and sentenced him to 6 years in prison.

Crime in Novo Selište

On 1 December 2010, the VSRH rendered a decision that the defendant Stojan Letica would be tried in his absence.

INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The charges against Stojan Letica accuse him that on 30 November 1991 at approximately 19.00 hours in Novo Selište as a member of non-regular army of the so-called SAO Krajina, when on patrol, aware of the fact that Stjepan Šubić, a civilian person of Croatian nationality, was alone in his house, fired several shots from the “M-70” rifle through the open window in the back of Stjepan Šubić, who instantly died from sustained injuries, and therefore he committed a criminal act of a war crime against civilians under Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.

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

Sisak County Court

Case file number: K-43/08

Council: judge Melita Avedić, Council President, judges Željko Mlinarić and Ljubica Rendulić Holzer, Council Members

Indictment: No. K-DO-44/06 of 26 November 2008 issued by the Sisak County State Attorney’s Office.

Prosecution: Sonja Rapić, Sisak County Deputy State’s Attorney

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

Defendant: Stojan Letica, member of the so-called “SAO Krajina” army, not present at the trial

Defence: Antonio Kaleb, a lawyer practicing in Sisak

Victim: Stjepan Šubić – a civilian, killed

MONITORING REPORTS

NOVO SELIŠTE izvještaji sa suđenja – available in Croatian

Crime in the military barracks in Slavonski Brod

Reopened trial against Janko Radmanović and Radisav Stojanović, previously tried in absentia and sentenced for the commission of a war crime against civilians.

INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The Indictment charges Janko Radmanović and Radisav Stojanović that, in their capacity as commanders of the “Ivan Senjug Ujak” barracks, in Slavonski Brod on 15 and 16 September 1991 by violating the international law rules, they were issuing orders to open fire on certain town parts without selecting the targets using all available weaponry, regardless of the fact that actions were being taken by regular Croatian armed forces; and as a result, the defendants’ subordinate officers and soldiers executed the orders to open fire because of which, subsequently, destroyed and damaged were many facilities, six civilians sustained light physical injuries and one civilian sustained serious physical injuries; thus the defendants are charged with a war crime against civilians under Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.

Clik here to read in Croatian the indictment no. KT-72/91 of 6 December 1991 issued by the Požega County State Attorney’s Office.

VERDICTS

By the Požega District Court verdict no. K-82/91 of 25 October 1993, the defendants were found guilty in their absence. Each defendant received a prison sentence in the duration of 15 years.

By the VSRH verdict no. IKž 157/1994-3 of 4 May 1995, the appeals by defendants Radmanović and Stojanović were dismissed as unfounded and the first-instance verdict was upheld.

Click here to read in Croatian the VSRH verdict.
REOPENED TRIAL

The Požega County State Attorney’s Office requested reopening of the criminal proceedings no. KT-72/91 of 11 February 2009.

The Court gave its permission to have the trial reopened.

VERDICT

On 1 June 2011, the verdict was pronounced which confirmed the previous verdict by which the defendant were found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison each.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Slavonski Brod County Court

Case file number: K- 12/01

War Crimes Council (panel): judge Jadranka Đaković, President of the Council, judges Mirko Svirčević and Zlatko Pirc, Council Members

Indictment: no. KT-72/91 of 6 December 1991 issued by the Požega District Prosecution; amended at the main hearing held on 25 October 1993 – at present no. K-DO-8/10 issued by the Slavonski Brod County State Attorney’s Office

Prosecution: Stjepan Haramustek, Slavonski Brod County Deputy State’s Attorney

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

Defendants: Janko Radmanović and Radisav Stojanović, not present

Defence: lawyer Ivanka Dugandžić (appointed by the court), lawyer Tomislav Skutari (appointed by the court)

Victims:
– grevious bodily harm: Ivan Babić

– with mild physical injuries: Marica Miloš, Konstantin Bašić, Marija Kovačević and Drago Vidaković

Destroyed or damaged: Memorial House “Ivana Brlić Mažuranić”, department stores “Vesna” and “Bamby”, kindergarten “Pčelica”, hospital “Plavo polje”, hotels “Park” and “Brod”, sports hall “Klasije”, primary school “Mika Babić”, Basilian sisters monastery, catholic church “St. Nikola Tavelić”, many private and state-owned housing units.

Monitoring reports

Click here to read in Croatian the monitoring reports on the Slavonski Brod Military Barracks war crime case.

Crime in Frkašić II

On 25 February 2010, the War Crimes Council of the Gospić County Court found the defendant Goran Zjačić guilty of the commission of war crime against war prisoners under Article 122 of the OKZ RH and sentenced him to 7 years in prison.

The VSRH, at the session of its Council scheduled for 11 May 2011 quashed for procedural errors the first instance verdict rendered by the Gospić County Court.

After the repeated trial, on 8 September 2011 the War Crimes Council of the Karlovac County Court (Office in Gospić) found the defendant guilty and sentenced him to 7 years in prison.

INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The defendant is charged that, from the beginning of May 1994 until 5 August 1995, as a member of the Military Police company with the 15th Corps of the so-called RSK Army (the Republic of Srpska Krajina), in the prison designated for war prisoners which was located in the primary school building in Frkašić, where war prisoners, members of the HV, the HVO and the BiH Army were detained, on those days when he was on guard, violating the rules of the international law he tortured war prisoners and treated them inhumanely and caused them great suffering and injuries against their physical integrity and health,
whereby he committed a war crime against war prisoners referred to in Article 122 of the OKZ RH.

You can see the indictment issued by the Gospić County State’s Attorney’s Office No. K-DO-13/08 of 9 March 2009 here (PDF, 362 KB). (in Croatian)
GENERAL DATA

Gospić County Court

Case file number: K-11/09

War Crime Council: Judge Dušan Šporčić, Council President; Judge Dubravka Rudelić, Council member; Judge Matilda Rukavina, Council member

Indictment: issued by the Gospić County State’s Attorney’s Office No. K-DO-13/08 of 9 March 2009

Prosecution: Željko Brkljačić, Gospić County Deputy State’s Attorney

Criminal act: war crime against prisoners of war – Article 122 of the OKZ RH

Defendant: Goran Zjačić, has been detained in the Gospić Prison since 28 September 2008

Defence counsel: Ljubiša Drageljević, a lawyer practising in Rijeka

Victims:
– physically abused: Johannes Tilder, Ivan Čaić, Ivan Dadić (members of the HV); Marko Tomić (member of the HVO); Kadir Bećirspahić (member of the BiH Army)
MONITORING REPORTS

The main hearing commenced on 3 June 2009.
We did not monitor the first two trial hearings. Reports from those hearings were written on the basis of the minutes from the trial.

Zjacic – monitoring reports (in Croatian)
VERDICT

On 25 February 2010, the War Crimes Council of the Gospić County Court found the defendant Goran Zjačić guilty of the commission of war crime against war prisoners under Article 122 of the OKZ RH and sentenced him to 7 years in prison.

His detention has been extended.

The VSRH, at the session of its Council scheduled for 11 May 2011 quashed for procedural errors the first instance verdict rendered by the Gospić County Court.

After the repeated trial, on 8 September 2011 the War Crimes Council of the Karlovac County Court (Office in Gospić) found the defendant guilty and sentenced him to 7 years in prison.

Crime in the villages of Municipality Promina

The trial against Rajko Janković was repeated. Following to that, on 24 September 2010 the War Crimes Council of the Šibenik County Court found him guilty of a war crime against civilians during war conflicts in the Promina region. The defendant received a prison sentence in the duration of 3 years and 6 months.

Previously, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia (hereinafter: the VSRH) in its judgment no. I KŽ 395/05-3 of 11 December 2008 quashed the K-23/03 verdict issued by the Šibenik County Court on 14 May 2004 in which the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to 4 years in prison.
INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The defendant is charged that he tortured, terrorized and intimidated civilians of Croatian ethnicity, spread among them fear and terror, looted their property and committed an attempted rape of a female person, at the temporary occupied area of the Republic of Croatia in the villages of Municipality Promina starting from end of 1991 until the military action “Storm [Oluja]” on 4 August 1995. Thus, he committed a war crime against civilians under Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.

The indictment was amended several times. The indictment and its amended versions can be viewed, in Croatian language:

– the Indictment issued by the Šibenik County State Attorney’s Office (hereinafter: Šibenik ŽDO) on 11 July 2003 here;

– amended Indictment on 13 May 2004 here;

– addendum to the trial record dated 14 May 2004 here;

The indictment was amended/made more precise twice in the course of the main hearing in the repeated trial:

– in the court records dated 10 September 2010;

– in the court records dated 24 September 2010
GENERAL INFORMATION

Šibenik County Court

Case file number: K-7/09

War Crimes Council (panel): judge Dalibor Dukić, President of the Council; judges Jadranka Biga-Milutin and Oredana Labura, Council members

Indictment: K-DO-12/03 issued by the Šibenik ŽDO on 11 July 2003, amended on 13 May 2004, supplemented at the hearing on 14 May 2004, made more precise at the hearings held on 10 and 24 September 2010.

Representing the Prosecution: Zvonko Ivić, the Šibenik County Deputy State Attorney

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

Defendant: Rajko Janković, not detained during the repeated trial (was in custody during the first trial, from April 2003 until the verdict pronouncement on 14 May 2004)

Defence: Tomislav Filaković, lawyer practicing in Osijek

Victims/injured persons – tortured and/or intimidated and/or property looted:
Šime Zelić, Neda Zelić, Vlado Zelić, Ankica Zelić, Neda Zelić, Anđa Čavlina, Dinka Karaga, Ante Parać, Milka Parać, Marija Parać, Ante Bračić, Marija Bračić
TRIAL MONITORING REPORTS

We did not monitor the first trial.

We monitored the main hearing in the repeated trial. Trial monitoring reports can be viewed in the following attached documents, available in Croatian language:

CRIME IN THE VILLAGES OF MUNICIPALITY PROMINA – repeated trial monitoring reports
VERDICTS

In the K-23/03 verdict of 14 May 2004 issued by the Šibenik County Court, the defendant Janković was found guilty and sentenced to 4 years in prison. The verdict can be viewed, in Croatian here.

The VSRH, in its judgment no. I KŽ 395/05-3 of 11 December 2008, quashed the first instance verdict of the Šibenik County Court and reversed the case to the first-instance court for a retrial. The first-instance verdict was quashed for procedural reasons because the defendant was found guilty of one part of incriminating actions and acquitted in respect of another part of incriminations, although he was charged with a perpetuated (extended) criminal offence which must be ruled in its entirety whereat it is not possible to reach both convicting and acquitting verdict at the same time.

The 11 December 2008 judgement of the VSRH can be viewed in Croatian language here.

The trial was repeated. Following to that on 24 September 2010, the Šibenik County Court found the defendant Janković guilty again. He received a prison sentence in the duration of 3 years and 6 months.

The Verdict can be viewed in Croatian language here.

Crime in Bijela

On 11 October 2010, War Crimes Council of the Bjelovar County Court reached a verdict in the trial against Dragomir Ćasić: The Court acquitted the defendant of the charge because it was not proven in his case that he committed a war crime against civilians under Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.
INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The Indictment No. KT-49/94 of 12 June 1997 was issued by the Bjelovar County State Attorney’s Office against 28 accused persons.

According to the Indictment, Dragomir Ćasić – the 19th defendant, is charged with a war crime against war prisoners: that he, in his capacity as member of paramilitary unit of the so called “Territorial Defence of Western Slavonia”, together with Žarković Krsto, Banjeglav Ljubomir, Šopalović Milan, Majić Nenad, Kulić Sreten, Zorić Miodrag, Pavković Vasilije, Kuridža Petar, Tomić Boro, Glumac Rajko and Romanić Milan, apprehended police members (Starešinić Zlatko, Petrovecki Darko, Rambousek Damir and Petrovečki Marijan) in Daruvar in the night of 18/19 August 1991. The defendants took the mentioned police members to the prison in the village of Bijela where they were tortured and abused, and after that transferred to the prison in Bučje where Petrovicki Darko, Rambousek Damir and Petrovečki Marijan disappeared without a trace and therefore presumed killed.

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

According to the Indictment No. K-DO-29/10 issued by the Bjelovar County State Attorney’s Office on 06 August 2010, Dragomir Ćasić is charged that he, together with other mentioned persons, unlawfully took into custody the citizens of the Republic of Croatia Starešinić Zlatko, Petrovicki Darko, Rambousek Damir and Petrovečki Marijan, and took them to the Chetnik prison in Bijela where they were tortured and abused; several days later they were transferred to the central prison in Bučje where Petrovicki Darko, Rambousek Damir and Petrovečki Marijan disappeared without a trace and therefore are presumed killed. Thus, he committed a war crime against civilians.
GENERAL INFORMATION

Bjelovar County Court

Case file number: K-6/2010

War Crimes Council (panel): Sandra Hančić, President of the Council, Mladen Piškorec and Antonija Bagarić, Council members

Indictment: No. K-DO-29/10 issued by the Bjelovar County State Attorney’s Office on 6 August 2010

Representing the prosecution: Branka Merzić, Bjelovar County State Attorney

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

Defendant: Dragomir Ćasić (arrested at the Bajakovo border crossing on 1 August 2010, in detention until the pronouncement of the first-instance verdict of acquittal on 11 October 2010)

Defence: Krešimir Papac and Krunoslav Kunštić, lawyers practicing in Koprivnica

Victims:

taken into a detention camp, tortured and abused, missing: Darko Petrovicki, Damir Rambousek and Marijan Petrovečki;

taken into a detention camp, tortured and abused: Zlatko Starešinić
TRIAL MONITORING REPORTS

BIJELA trial monitoring reports (available in Croatian language)
VERDICT

On 11 October 2010, War Crimes Council of the Bjelovar County Court reached a verdict in which the panel acquitted the defendant Dragomir Ćasić because it was not proven in his case that he committed the crime as charged.

Crime in Novska

A trial was conducted before the War Crime Council of the Sisak County Court against Branislav Mišćević and Željko Vrljanović, charged with a war crime against civilians, described and punishable pursuant to Article 120, paragraph 1 of the Basic Criminal Law of the Republic of Croatia (hereinafter: the OKZ RH). The public session of the Supreme Court of the RoC was held on 13 October 2009. The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia fully upheld the first instance verdict.
On 22 December 2010, the Appellate Panel of the Supreme Court held its session (in the third instance in respect of the defendant Mišćević). We are still not familiar with the decision.

 
INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The defendants are charged that on 19 March 1993 in Novska, as members of a sabotage group which was operating within the reconnaissance and sabotage squad of the 54th infantry brigade of the 18th corps of the Republic of Srpska Krajina Military, together with members of that group Ljubinko Bijelić and Dragan Knežević, wearing Croatian military (HV) uniforms and armed with automatic guns of the ”Scorpion” brand, from the temporarily occupied area of Novsko Brdo, walking down the forest path towards the town of Novska, in the area called ”Samar” in Alberta Knoppa Street, they entered the family house owned by the Grgić family where they killed Stjepan Grgić, deputy commander of the temporary unit of the Novska Homeguard Company, his wife Tomislava Grgić and their children Ivan Grgić and Anamarija Grgić. Having committed the murder, they searched the house and found the keys of a personal car of the ”Isuzu” brand and drove it away to the temporarily occupied area of Okučani,

therefore, by violating the rules of the international law during an armed conflict, they killed civilian population, whereby they committed a criminal act against humanity and international law – war crime against civilians – described and punishable pursuant to Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.
GENERAL DATA

Sisak County Court

War Crime Council: Judge Snježana Mrkoci, Council President; Judge Predrag Jovanić, Council member, Judge Alenka Lešić, Council member

Prosecuting attorney: Marijan Zgurić, Sisak County Deputy State’s Attorney

Defence counsels:

for the 1st defendant, Luka Šušak, a lawyer practising in Zagreb
for the 2nd defendant, Zorko Kostanjšek, a lawyer practising in Sisak and Veljko Miljević, a lawyer practising in Zagreb

Victims: killed members of the Grgić family: Stjepan Grgić, Tomislava Grgić, Ivan Grgić, Anamarija Grgić
MONITORING REPORTS

NOVSKA monitoring reports (in Croatian)

VERDICT

On 24 October 2008 the verdict was published by which the 1st defendant Branislav Miščević was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The 2nd defendant Željko Vrljanović was acquitted of charges.

The public session of the Supreme Court of the RoC was held on 13 October 2009. You can see the report from the public session here. (in Croatian)
The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia fully upheld the first instance verdict.
You can see the verdict of the Supreme Court here (in Croatian).

On 22 December 2010, the Appellate Panel of the Supreme Court held its session (in the third instance in respect of the defendant Mišćević). We are still not familiar with the decision.

OPINION OF THE MONITORING TEAM AFTER THE FIRST INSTANCE PROCEEDINGS

The criminal proceedings for the killing of the Grgić family, the spouses and their two underage children, which was performed in the shape of execution from point blank, were initiated 13 years after the crime was committed.

The severity and brutality of the crime require the most stringent punishment for all perpetrators of that crime.

The Court Council had a demanding task of establishing the facts and passing a decision with regard to the fact that there were no direct eyewitnesses of the crime, one of the key witnesses denied the testimony provided during the investigation, while another witness clarified that he was not referring to the defendant Vrljanović during the investigation but to another person. The Court was informed that unknown persons had exposed this witness to threats.

Precisely because of that, when passing a verdict (both in the sentencing and in the acquitting section) on the basis of circumstantial evidence, the Court is obliged to clearly explain the established facts.

The Court Council established that the defendant Branislav Miščević, together with members of his group, including Ljubinko Bijelić “Tolobić” and Dragan Kovačević “Toša”, liquidated members of the Grgić family by firing gunshots in the back of their heads and stole their personal car, whereby they committed a war crime against civilians. The defendant Miščević was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Due to lack of evidence, Željko Vrljanović was acquitted of charges that he had committed the criminal act with which he was charged in the indictment.

In the course of the proceedings, the defence insisted on obtaining the case file in the criminal proceedings which were, according to the defence, conducted against Dean Milić in 1993 before the Zagreb Military Court for the same event for which the defendants Miščević and Vrljanović were tried in this procedure. However, having obtained the case file, which clearly did not pertain to the incriminating event, the Court did not accept the defence’s request for re-obtaining the case file.

If the Supreme Court of the RoC deems that the facts in this procedure were correctly established, we deem it necessary to process all perpetrators of the crime against the Grgić family, which will require cooperation with prosecution bodies of the Republic of Serbia.

Explanation

The criminal proceedings against Branislav Miščević and Željko Vrljanović were initiated 13 years after the commission of the crime with which they were charged in the indictment. The investigating request dated 31 March 2006 was directed against the following 7 (seven) persons: Jure Šajatović, Milenko Bajić, Živko Kragujević, Branislav Miščević, Ljubinko Bijelić, Dragan Knežević and Željko Vrljanović. The indictment was issued against Branislav Miščević and Željko Vrljanović who became available to the judicial bodies of the Republic of Croatia. Branislav Miščević, without citizenship, with refugee status in Serbia, was extradited to Croatia from Serbia, while Željko Vrljanović, citizen of the U.S.A., was arrested in Germany pursuant to the international warrant and extradited to Croatia.

The first instance court deems that, on the basis of presented evidence, it was established that Branislav Miščević took part in the liquidation of the 4-member Grgić family and that his actions contain all essential characteristics of the criminal act of war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison (maximum prison sentence). Due to lack of evidence, Željko Vrljanović was acquitted of charges pursuant to Article 354, item 3 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

The Court, without interfering with the content of the indictment, intervened in the factual substratum made by the prosecuting attorney by way of aligning it with the established facts since, according to the court’s assessment, it was not established beyond reasonable doubt during the procedure that the subject criminal act was committed upon the order issued by Jure Šajatović, Milenko Bajić, Živko Kragujević and an unknown 1st class JNA (Yugoslav People’s Army) captain, thus the Court omitted these allegations from the actual description of the criminal act for which it found Branislav Miščević guilty.

Upon the Council’s decision, seven witnesses were directly heard during the evidence procedure, while the testimonies of six other witnesses were read. Public was excluded from the main hearing during the questioning of the witness Milan Mirolović for the purpose of protecting his personal and family life, in compliance with the provisions of the ZKP. The Department for Support to Victims and Witnesses in Criminal Proceedings and Proceedings for Criminal Acts of War Crime suggested to exclude the public. The Court was informed that unknown persons had exposed this witness to threats.

The Court based the sentencing part of the verdict on the testimonies of three witnesses – Dušan Grbić (provided during the investigation procedure, when directly questioned at the main hearing he denied the testimony provided during the investigation), Milan Mirolović and Milka Pavković.

From the testimonies of witnesses Dušan Grbić and Milan Mirolović, the Court established that, on the critical day, 19 March 1993, around 16:00 or 17:00 hours, pursuant to the orders received, these persons were securing the area near the village of Paklenica, whereby members of Branislav Miščević’s group turned left in the direction of Novska, Čedo Relić’s group went in the opposite direction while their group stayed on that same place. On that occasion, Miščević’s group was carrying short weapons, the so-called “scorpions”, and the witness Mirolović stated that they had silencers and Croatian Military uniforms. They heard that those persons, upon return, drove a personal car – a jeep that broke down on the way, so that Milan Pavković was pulling it by a tractor. Only on the third day they heard that the Grgić family had been killed.

Witness Dušan Grbić stated that “Tolobić”, Vrljanović, “Toša” and Vujkovac also went with Miščević in the direction of Novska. He said that “Tolobić” came after 24:00 hours from the direction of Novska wearing Croatian Military uniform and said that he needed a tractor. He attempted to reach Jure Šajatović by Motorola, but could not reach him, so he called Mišo Bajić and asked him to get Milan Pavković to come to the forest with a tractor. A day or two days later, he heard that Miščević, “Tolobić” and “Toša” were fixing a jeep. He heard that, apart from the jeep, they also seized money and Croatian Military uniforms, and that they needed a tractor because the car broke down on the way.

Witness Mirolović said that on the incriminating day around 16:00 hours Miščević was in the company of “Tolobić”, “Toša” and “Vrči”.

Witness Milka Pavković confirmed the allegations of the witness that during one evening in 1993 her husband Milan Pavković was called to come with his tractor to pull out some vehicle that got stuck. Jure Šajatović and Milenko Bajić came to pick him up that night wearing Croatian uniforms. Her husband told her that first he thought it was a vehicle that was stolen somewhere, and when he found out what they had done, he went to the command centre which was located in Rajići and told them everything, because of which his family had problems afterwards. Her husband also told her that he had learned from Marko Vladić, who passed away in the meantime, that a person with the nickname of “Toša”, for whom he thinks his name was Dragan Knežević, was a member of the group that killed members of the Grgić family.

Having sublimated the aforementioned testimonies, the Court established that it was precisely the defendant Branislav Miščević, with his reconnaissance and sabotage group which undoubtedly comprised Ljubinko Bijelić aka “Tolobić” and Dragan Knežević aka “Toša”, who committed the incriminating criminal act because, as the Court explained, on the incriminating occasion the defendant drove a jeep for which it is reasonable to assume that it belonged to the Grgić family, since it was driven on that critical night to the position of the “SAO Krajina” Military, and none of the witnesses confirmed the defendant’s defence that UNPROFOR gave them this vehicle at disposal, whereby witnesses state that there were rumours going around that this car was sold in Belgrade, while witness Slavomir Solomon stated that the deceased Stjepan Grgić had a jeep at that time.

From the minutes on the on-site investigation and photo elaborate, it ensues that the killing of the Grgić family was committed on 19 March 1993 in their house in Novska. The Court, having linked the undisputable date of the killing of members of the Grgić family with the event described by witnesses Grbić and Mirolović (they spoke about March 1993), obviously determined the exact date of commission of the criminal act. However, in the explanation of the verdict, the Court stated that “… from the testimonies of witnesses Dušan Grbić and Milan Mirolović who testified during the investigation and witness Mirolović who confirmed that testimony at the main hearing, that on the day in question, 19 March 1993 around 16:00 or 17:00 hours, they were tasked with ….”, although the aforementioned witnesses never spoke about the exact date when the event which they described took place.

The Court concluded that the defendant, when performing the criminal act, acted with premeditation, motivated by ethnic intolerance towards the citizens of Croatian ethnicity, which ultimately resulted in the killing of 4 civilians, including two children aged 14 and 5, on which occasion each victim, prior to liquidation, was forced to look how their closest family members were killed. The Court did not explain the grounds on which it passed the conclusion that the crime was motivated by ethnic intolerance.

By explaining the acquitting section of the verdict, the Court stated that the defendant Vrljanović defended himself by stating that, at the incriminating time, he was in Banja Luka, which was confirmed by his then-girlfriend and current wife Dragana Vrljanović and her sister Daliborka Potajac, and that prior to the critical event he was transferred to the mortar unit, which was confirmed by witnesses Dušan Sutara and Milorad Tešanović.

Witness Mirolović clarified at the main hearing that the person with the nickname “Vrči”, whom he mentioned in the investigation, was actually Željko Mostarac, and not Željko Vrljanović who has the nickname “Vrljo”. Witnesses Dušan Grbić, Dragana Vrljanović and Daliborka Potajac also stated that the defendant’s nickname was “Vrljo”.

The Court assessed the testimony of witness Nikola Polimac, who stated during the investigation that the defendant Vrljanović personally told him that, together with the defendant Miščević, he had participated in the liquidation, as non -convincing.

In the acquitting section of the verdict, the Court did not give value to the part of the testimony provided by witness Dušan Grbić who stated during the investigation that “Tolobić”, Vrljanović, “Toša” and Vujkovac went with Miščević in the direction of Novska.

The defence insisted on obtaining the case file from the Zagreb County Court in the criminal proceedings which were, according to the defence, conducted in 1993 before the Zagreb Military Court against Dean Milić, the-then member of the Croatian formations, for the same event for which Miščević and Vrljanović were indicted.

According to the defence, the Sisak County Court obtained a wrong case file from the Zagreb County Court, which has no connection with the subject criminal act. The defence counsels filed a motion to obtain the aforementioned case file on the basis of which it would be determined whether a sentencing verdict was passed before the-then Military Court against Dean Milić for the brutal killing of the Grgić family and whether charges against that person were soon afterwards dropped due to the General Amnesty Act, but the evidence motion was rejected as irrelevant.

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“.

Crime in Korlat

The second repeated trial against the defendants Stevo Macakanja et al. for a war crime against civilians was concluded before the changed composition of the War Crimes Council of the Zadar County Court.

Due to erroneously and incompletely established facts, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia in a Ruling No. I-Kz-565/00 dated 19 December 2002, quashed the verdict of the Zadar County Court No. K-39/95 of 23 June 2000 and reversed the case to the Zadar County Court for a re-trial. The trial is conducted in the defendants’ absence.
INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The indictment issued by the Zadar County State’s Attorney’s Office (hereinafter: the ŽDO), No. KT-78/92 of 1 August 1995 charged the defendants, Stevo Macakanja, Željko Ležaja, Branko Kužet and Željko Cupać, that on 5 June 1992 in Korlat, at the temporarily occupied territory of the RoC, as members of paramilitary formations, during the armed conflict between rebel Serbs’ formations and armed forces of the RoC, together with five other unidentified unknown persons, decided to kill and abuse and killed civilian Milan Bulić.

Indictment.doc (in Croatian)
GENERAL DATA

The second repeated trial against the defendants Stevo Macakanja et al. for a war crime against civilians commenced before the War Crimes Council of the Zadar County Court on 30 March 2006.

Zadar County Court

Indictment No.: KT-78/92, of 1 August 1995, represented by the Zadar ŽDO

Number of the quashing ruling of the Supreme Court of the RoC: I Kž-565/00 of 19 December 2002, I Kž-682/03, of 29 September 2005

War Crimes Council: Judge Enka Moković, Council President; Judge Vladimir Mikolčević, Council member and Judge Boris Babić, Council member

Prosecuting attorney: Slobodan Denon, Deputy Zadar County State’s Attorney

Criminal act: war crime against civilians

Defendants: Stevo Macakanja, Željko Ležaja, Branko Kužet and Željko Cupać

Defence counsels:
lawyer Ante Ivković – defence counsel of the defendant Stevo Macakanja, lawyer Ante Krajina – defence counsel of the defendant Željko Ležaja, lawyer Ivica Ivanić – defence counsel of the defendant Branko Kužet, lawyer Goran Nižić – defence counsel of the defendant Željko Cupać, all lawyers practising in Zadar

Victims: – killed Milan Bulić.
MONITORING REPORTS
We monitored the process only occasionally. You can find the overview of the second repeated trial in the attached document.

VERDICT

On 4 October 2006, the President of the War Crimes Council, Judge Enka Moković, pronounced the verdict No. K-70/05, which found the defendant Stevo Macakanja and the defendant Željko Ležaja guilty as charged.

  • Stevo Macakanja was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
  • Željko Ležaja was sentenced to 5 years in prison.
  • The defendants Branko Kužet and Željko Cupać were acquitted of charges.

FINAL OPINION OF THE MONITORING TEAM

The War Crimes Council of the Zadar County Court in a changed composition conducted the second repeated criminal procedure against the defendants Stevo Macakanja, Željko Ležaja, Branko Kužet and Željko Cupać in a correct manner. The Council established that, out of the presented evidence and the established facts, it was not possible to conclude beyond any reasonable doubt that Branko Kužet and Željko Cupać were co-perpetrators of the criminal act referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH or that they gave support to the 1st and the 2nd defendant and encouraged them in their actions towards the civilian Milan Bulić, as stated in the indictment.

It remains unclear due to which reasons the previous Council, in the first repeated procedure, failed to act according to the instructions provided by the Supreme Court of the RoC, as a result of which the procedure was unnecessarily delayed because the second repeated procedure had to be conducted, as well.