Monitoring war crimes in Republic of Croatia

Crime in Bilje (the accused Zdravko Pijunović)

Trials in Croatia ::
Trial against Zdravko Pijunović for criminal offence of war crime against civilians stated in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Osijek District Court

Case No: K-38/93

War Crimes Council (judges’ panel): judge Ružica Šamota, Council President; judge Vojislav Alagić, Council member; lay judges Marija Vukelić, Mirko Tutnjević and Ljiljana Beleš, Council members

Criminal offence: war crime against civilians stated in Article 120, Paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH

Indictment: issued by the Osijek Municipality State’s Attorney, No: KT-28/93, dated on 23 March 1993, factual aspects of the criminal act amended during the trial/main hearing

Accused person/Defendant: Zdravko Pijunović, tried in absence

Defence Counsel: Ilija Brkić, lawyer from Osijek

Victim: one female person raped (name undisclosed to the public)

 

VERDICT (SUMMARY)

According to the Osijek District Court’s verdict No: K-38/93-24 dated on 24 September 1993, the accused Zdravko Pijunović was found guilty as charged that, during the occupation of Baranja, on the night of 19-20 December 1991 in Bilje, around 22:30hours, Pijunović, in his capacity as a member of Serb paramilitary formations, had entered the house of a married couple of Hungarian ethnicity while carrying a rifle in his hand, with a goal of subjecting non-Serb civilian population to humiliation and intimidation and inflicting serious mental pain upon them, as well as with a goal of evicting the civilians from their homes, he had ordered the female person to go with him while threatening to kill her husband if he only stepped out of the house, and had taken the female person to a house in the vicinity, and threatening to kill her and her husband, as well as their parents, since they all had been put on the execution list, he had raped her, and after that he had taken her in tears around 01:30 hours to her house where he had continued humiliating her husband and threatening to kill him. After the injured party had reported the case of rape, she was receiving anonymous letters full of threats warning the injured party and her husband not to wait for the case to be brought to court but to leave Baranja, otherwise they would be killed.

The accused Pijunović was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

We neither have the information on the appeals lodged by the parties nor the information on the verdict passed by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia.

Crime at the “Artillery Range C” in Osijek (accused Zoran Kokić)

Trials in Croatia :

Trial against Zoran Kokić for criminal offence of war crime against civilians stated in Article 120, Paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH.

GENERAL DATA

Osijek District Court

Case No: K-60/93

War Crimes Council (judges’ panel): judge Ante Budić, Council President; judge Terezija Lulić, Council member; lay judges Inka Alerić, Romana Tomašević and Nikola Oreščanin, Council members

Indictment: issued by the Osijek District State Attorney’s Office, No: KT-308/92, dated on 03 May 1993

Criminal offence: war crime against civilians stated in Article 120, Paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH

Accused person/Defendant: Zoran Kokić, tried in absence

Defence Counsel: Dražen Matijević, lawyer from Osijek, court-appointed legal counsel

Victims:

killed: Žarko Kaić

wounded: Dragan Krička

VERDICT (SUMMARY)

According to the Osijek District Court’s verdict No: K-60/93-39 dated on 21 September 1993, the accused Zoran Kokić was found guilty as charged that, in the vicinity of the (Yugoslav National Army’s) “Artillery Range C” on 28 August 1991 in Osijek, around 11:00hours, following the order issued by a senior officer of the Yugoslav National Army, Kokić, using firearms mounted on a tank, had opened a burst of fire at the reporters/cameramen of the Croatian Television – Žarko Kaić and Dragan Krička, although Kokić had seen that they were civilians (news reporters – cameramen), thus inflicting several gunshot wounds in the abdominal area and the area of the right hip of Dragan Krička, which were severe and life-threatening wounds, and inflicting gunshot wounds on Žarko Kaić’s head and face which caused the immediate death of Žarko Kaić. The accused Kokić was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In its judgment No:I Kž 972/1993-3, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia on 20 December 1994 dismissed the appeal lodged by the accused Zoran Kokić as unfounded and upheld the first-instance court verdict.

Crime in Okučani (defendant Zoran Lužajić et al.)

Trials in Croatia ::
Trial against Zoran Lužajić and Stanko Borjanić, charged with war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

Požega District Court

Case file no.: K-61/93; K-11/94 (repeated proceedings)

Judges’ panel: judge Branimir Miljević, presiding; judge Ljiljana Štirmer, member; lay judges Milan Čubrić, Šimo Poljaković and Ivica Obradović, members

– in the repeated trial: Branimir Miljević, presiding; Ljiljana Štirmer, member; lay judges Branko Bartelović, Josip Čamak and Leopold Brus, members

Indictment: no. KT-81/91 of 2 September 1993 issued by the Požega District State Attorney’s Office

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

Defendants: Zoran Lužajić and Stanko Borjanić, unavailable

Defence counsels: Alojzije Fiuri and Mira Matić Primorac

Victim – killed: Antun Čorak

 

VERDICT (SUMMARY)

According to the Požega District Court’s verdict of 7 October 1991, the defendants were found guilty. On 26 August 1991, outlaw military formation member Stanko Borjanić followed the orders issued by SAO Krajina’s Okučani Militia commander Zoran Lužajić and shot dead villager from Kosovac Antun Čorak, by firing a shot at his temple, who had come to Okučani to check if his father was still alive and, together with several villagers from Kosovac, had been apprehended by Serb extremists with the purpose of their exchange with confined Chetniks.

The defendants were sentenced to 20 years in prison each.

The Požega District Court’s verdict no. K-61/93-9 of 7 October 1993 is available in Croatian here.

On 26 January 1994, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia accepted defendant Lužajić’s appeal and quashed the verdict in his case and remanded the case back to the first-instance court for retrial.

The court dismissed Borjanić’s appeal and confirmed the first-instance verdict in his case.

The verdict and decision of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia no. I Kž-974/1993-4 of 26 January 1994 is available in Croatian here.

Požega County Court conducted repeated proceedings. On 28 April 1991, this Court found defendant Zoran Lužajić again and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

The Požega County Court’s verdict no. K-11/94-26 of 28 April 1994 is available in Croatian here.

Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia, at its session held on 27 February 1997, rejected as unfounded Lužajić’s appeal and confirmed the verdict rendered by the court at first instance.

The VSRH verdict no.: I Kž-589/1994-3 of 27 February 1997 is available in Croatian here.

Crime at Velepromet (defendant Savan Dakić)

Trials in Croatia ::

Trial against Savan Dakić for war crime against civilians under Article 120, paragraph 1 of the Basic Criminal Law Act of the Republic of Croatia (hereinafter: OKZRH).

 
INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

Defendant Savan Dakić is charged that as member of TO Vukovar dressed in olive-drab uniform and armed with an automatic rifle, in Vukovar on 19 November 1991, following the occupation of the town carried out by the so-called JNA and adjoined paramilitary formations and the forming of detention centre in “Velepromet” company’s warehouse in the street of Sajmište no. 132 where prisoners of war and civilians persons were brought in, having followed detention camp commander Nenad Žigić’s order, he took Ivan Ravlić out of the administration room and took him behind the first hangar, opened burst-fire from automatic rifle and killed Ravlić,

thus, by violating the provisions of international law at the time of occupation, he was killing civilians,

therefore, he committed a crime against humanity and international law – war crime against civilians, as described and punishable according to Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.
GENERAL INFORMATION

Vukovar County Court

Case file number: K – 60/06

Defendant: Savan Dakić (orderly receives summons, resides in Serbia at the address which the court is familiar with, but he does not respond to the summons)

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

War Crimes Council (panel): judge Slavko Teofilović, President of the Council

Prosecution: Vlatko Miljković, Vukovar County Deputy State Attorney

Indictment : no. K-DO-11/04 of 29 September 2006 issued by the Vukovar ŽDO,

Defence councel: Stjepan Šporčić, lawyer practising in Vukovar (court-appointed defence counsel)

 

Victim – killed: Ivan Ravlić
TRIAL MONITORING REPORTS

The reports are available in Croatian language: Velepromet (Savan Dakić) – izvjestaji

Crime in Taborište

Trials in Croatia ::
Although the main hearing before the Sisak County Court in the Milan Velebit case was scheduled for 7 June 2010, it did not begin. The defendant resides in the Republic of Serbia and is its citizen. He was summoned to attend the hearing but did not come.

The case file was forwarded to the extra-trial chamber to decide whether the defendant would be tried in his absence or not.
INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The charges against Milan Velebit accuse him that on 11 October 1991, as a member of illegal army of the so-called SAO Krajina, he entered the courtyard of Jelena Palaić, a civilian of Croatian nationality, and demanded all cattle. Following Jelena Palaić’s refusal, he fired several shots at her and caused mortal injuries from which she died immediately. He took and kept for himself all her assets including the cattle found in the barn.

You can see the Indictment br. KT-171/92 of 29 June 2009 issued by the Sisak County State Attorney’s Office (hereinafter: ŽDO) here. (in Croatian)
GENERAL INFORMATION

Sisak County Court

War Crimes Council: judge Melita Avedić, Council President, judges Predrag Jovanić and Ljubica Balder, Council Members

Case file number: K-25/09

Indictment: No. KT-171/92 of 29 June 2009 issued by the Sisak County State Attorney’s Office

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

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

Defendant: Milan Velebit, absent, currently resides in Serbia, the Court is familiar with his residence address

Defence: Danko Kovač, a lawyer practicing in Sisak

Victim (killed): Jelena Palaić
MONITORING REPORTS

TABORIŠTE – izvještaj s praćenja suđenja – available in Croatian

Crime at Velepromet (defendant Jovan Radan)

Trials in Croatia ::
Trial against Jovan Radan for war crime against civilians under Article 120, paragraph 1 of the Basic Criminal Law Act of the Republic of Croatia (hereinafter: OKZRH).
INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The indictment charges Jovan Radan that, in his capacity as member of Serb paramilitary formations, in Vukovar on 19 November 1991 within the grounds of the “Velepromet” company where the so-called JNA and paramilitary formations brought a greater number of detained civilians following the occupation of the town, contrary to Article 3, paragraph 2, item 1 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, he grabbed Daut Ziberi’s head with one arm, and with another arm – in which he held a knife – he cut through Ziberi’s throat and thus killed him,

thus, by violating the provisions of international law at the time of occupation, he was killing civilians,

therefore, he committed a crime against humanity and international law – war crime against civilians, as described and punishable according to Article 120 of the OKZRH.
GENERAL INFORMATION

Vukovar County Court

Case file number: K- 15/07

Defendant: Jovan Radan (orderly receives summons, resides in Serbia at the address which the court is familiar with, does not respond to the summons)

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

War Crimes Council (panel): judge Nikola Bešenski, President of the Council

Prosecution: Vlatko Miljković, Vukovar County Deputy State Attorney

Indictment: no. K-DO-45/04 of 12 February 2007 issued by the Vukovar County State Attorney’s Office,

Defence: Jelica Balog, lawyer practising in Vinkovci (court-appointed defence counsel)

Victim (killed): Daut Ziberi
TRIAL MONITORING REPORTS

The reports are available in Croatian language: Velepromet (Jovan Radan) – izvještaji

Crime in Branjin Vrh

Trials in Croatia ::

The trial against the defendant Vaso Petrović et al. for the criminal act of genocide is held before the War Crime Council of the Osijek County Court pursuant to the indictment No. KT-123/96 dated 7 May 1996.

The trial against the defendants Goran Čuljak, Slavko Kecman and Branko Tomić was separated. In the modified indictment dated 30 December 1996, the factual description of the criminal act, legal aspects and legal qualification of the act were changed. After that, the procedure against Goran Čuljak, Slavko Kecman and Branko Tomić was quashed.

The procedure against other defendants is on hold until they become available to the judiciary of the Republic of Croatia. The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia has made a recommendation not to conduct trials of the defendants in absentia.
MONITORING REPORTS

Before the War Crime Council of the Osijek County Court comprising: Damir Krahulec (Council president), Mario Kovač i Ante Kvesić (Council members), the prosecution is represented by Željko Krpan, the Osijek County Deputy State’s Attorney.

The procedure against the defendants who are at large is on hold until they become available to the judiciary of the Republic of Croatia. The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia has made a recommendation not to conduct trials of the defendants in absentia.

We did not monitor this trial.

Crime in Branjina

Trial against 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 for criminal offence of genocide stated in Article 119 of the OKZ RH.

 

INDICTMENT

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.

 

GENERAL DATA

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:

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

 

 

VERDICT (SUMMARY)

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.

After the completion of the evidence procedure in the repeated first-instance proceedings, the County State Attorney’s Office (the prosecutor) withdrew from further criminal prosecution against the accused Savo Bošnjak so the War Crimes Council (Judges’ Panel) of the Osijek County Court on 26 October 2005 passed the judgement by which the criminal complaint against the accused Bošnjak was rejected.

Crimes in Trnovo and Bobota

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.

 

INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

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

On 16 December 2005, Deputy Zagreb County State’s Attorney modified the indictment in such a manner that in count 1 of the indictment, instead of the wording “on a precisely unidentified day in July 1995”, he put the wording “on a precisely unidentified day in June 1995”. In count 2 of the indictment, Deputy Zagreb County State’s Attorney dropped charges against the defendant in relation to the witness Ivica Pavičić.

 

 

GENERAL DATA

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

Victims:
– 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
MONITORING REPORTS

Below you will find reports from trials.

Trnovo and Bobota – reports (in Croatian)
VERDICT

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

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.

GENERAL INFORMATION

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

Victims (according to the particulars from the enacting clause of the indictment):
– 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:

Pero Novković – body not found
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 Žestić – deceased from the cause of cold water being poured at him
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:

– on page 39, in paragraph 6 it is stated that on 5 December 1991, the service on duty of the Bjelovar Police Administration informed the investigating judge of the Bjelovar District Court of finding several corpses in the area between Pakračka Poljana and Marino Selo, and that on 6 December 1991, recorded under no. Kir-I-517/92, an inspection record was made by the investigating judge Mihael Malčić.
– on page 40, in paragraph 1, 3, 4 and 5 it is stated that the dead male bodies were marked with numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Injuries and cause of death was determined with the autopsy the autopsy performed at the Institute for Court Medicine and Criminal Science in Zagreb on 7 December 1991:
– dead body marked with no. 1 was the body of Branko Bunčić (found dead in the fish pond, violent death, was dead before it came in the water),
– dead body marked with no. 2 was the body of Nikola Gojković (violent death),
– dead body marked with no. 3 was the body of Gojko Gojković (violent death, occurred at least two weeks before autopsy),
– dead body marked with no. 4 was the body of Mijo Gojković (violent death),

– 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).

 

MONITORING REPORTS

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.
VERDICT

On 13 March 2009, the verdict of guilty was pronounced against the defendants.

The defendants were sentenced to the following prison terms:

– the 1st defendant Damir Kufner was sentenced to 4 years and 6 months of imprisonment,
– the 2nd defendant Davor Šimić was sentenced 1 year of imprisonment,
– the 3rd defendant Pavao Vancaš was sentenced 3 years of imprisonment,
– the 4th defendant Tomica Poletto was sentenced to 16 years of imprisonment,
– the 5th defendant Željko Tutić was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment,

– 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[1].

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.

June 2009

 


[1] 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.