Crime in Popovac

The repeated procedure against Stojan Pavlović, Đuro Urukalo and Branko Berberović was concluded at the Osijek County Court. On 7 July 2009, the first instance verdict was pronounced in which the defendant Stojan Pavlović was sentenced to 3 years in prison, the defendant Đuro Urukalo to 2 years in prison and the defendant Branko Berberović to 1 year and 6 months in prison for the commission of a war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the Basic Criminal Law of the RoC (hereinafter: the OKZ RH) in the village of Popovac in Baranja area in the period between August 1991 and the end of 1996.
The Supreme Court at its session held on 9 February 2010 upheld the verdict of the first-instance court.

INDICTMENT (SUMMARY)

The indictment issued by the Osijek County State’s Attorney’s Office (hereinafter: the ŽDO) No. K-DO-8/2003 of 12 May 2003, charged Stojan Pavlović, Đuro Urukalo, Branko Berberović and Milan Šarić that in the period between August 1991 and 1996 in the village of Popovac in Baranja area they committed a war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH, while Đuro Urukalo was also charged that he unlawfully possessed explosive devices whereby he committed the criminal act of unlawful possession of weapons and explosive devices referred to in Article 335, paragraph 1 of the Criminal Act of the RoC (hereinafter: the KZ RH).

You can read the indictment issued by the Osijek ŽDO No. K-DO-8/2003 of 12 May 2003 here (PDF, 808 KB). (in Croatian)

The submission of 19 March 2004 modified the factual description, legal description and legal qualification of the indictment.

The defendants Pavlović, Urukalo and Berberović were charged that in the period between August 1991 and the end of 1996 in the village of Popovac in Baranja area, Pavlović as a member of the Popovac Territorial Defence Headquarters and as non-formal commander of all Popovac authorities, Urukalo as a member of the Headquarters and commander of civilian protection and Berberović as a member of the Territorial Defence, with the intention to make the village of Popovac ethnically clean Serb area, they participated in the work of the Headquarters where decisions were passed and executed which exposed civilian non-Serb population to physical and mental abuse, unlawful arrests and apprehensions, interrogation, beating and torture, forced labour and various other forms of intimidation, as the result of which actions the majority of non-Serb population of Popovac had to abandon their homes and cross over to the free part of the RoC.

They were charged that they inhumanely treated civilian population, inflicted injuries to their physical integrity and health, expelled people, applied measures of intimidation and terror, took hostages, forced civilians to serve in enemy armed forces, conducted unlawful detentions and exposed civilians to forced labour, whereby they committed a war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH.

The defendant Urukalo was also charged that on 4 March 2003 in his family house in Popovac he kept a hand bomb, a trigger for a hand bomb and six grenades whereby he committed a criminal act of unlawful possession of weapons and explosive devices referred to in Article 235 of the Criminal Act of the RoC (hereinafter: the KZ RH).

The defendant Šarić was charged that he took weapons and joined the rebels against the constitutional order of the RoC, first by becoming a member of the so-called Popovac Territorial Defence and subsequently of the Republic of Srpska Krajina Militia and that he participated in different activities of the aforementioned formations, whereby he committed a criminal act against the RoC – armed rebellion referred to in Article 235 of the KZ RH.

You can read the modified indictment dated 19 March 2004 here (PDF, 133 KB). (in Croatian)

 
GENERAL DATA

Osijek County Court

Case number: Krz-39/08

War Crimes Council: Judge Damir Krahulec, Council President; Judges Drago Grubeša and Mario Kovač, Council members

Indictment: issued by the Osijek ŽDO, No. K-DO-8/2003 of 12 May 2003, modified on 19 March 2004

Prosecuting attorney: Dražen Križevac, Deputy Osijek County State’s Attorney

Criminal act: war crime against civilians, Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OK ZRH

The 1st defendant: Stojan Pavlović, defends himself at large, was detained from 5 March 2003 until 8 April 2004

The 2nd defendant: Đuro Urukalo, defends himself at large, was detained from 5 March 2003 until 8 April 2004

The 3rd defendant: Branko Berberović, defends himself at large, was detained from 5 March 2003 until 8 April 2004

Selected defence counsel of the 1st defendant: Dubravko Marjanović, a lawyer practising in Osijek

Selected defence counsel of the 2nd defendant: Sibila Jagar, a lawyer practising in Osijek

Selected defence counsel of the 3rd defendant: Dubravka Pešo, a lawyer practising in Osijek

Victims:
– physically and mentally abused: Milan Kramar, Josip Mikec, Stjepan Šumiga, Zvonko Arlav, Zvonko Geto, Goran Knez, Dragutin Posavec, Slavica Gudlin, Dragica Žganjer, Stjepan Hertarić, Ivan Blešć

– unlawfully apprehended: Proka Radivojević

– sent to forced labour: Ivan Plešć, Stjepan Šumiga, Željko Jurčec, Robert Gajšek, Franjo Androić, Stjepan Jug, Valent Žganjer, Dragica Žganjer, Josip Kunović and Stevan Čizmar
MONITORING REPORTS

POPOVAC monitoring reports (in Croatian)

The main hearing in the repeated procedure was initiated on 20 April 2009.
The defendants pleaded not guilty for the act with which they were charged in the indictment.
The non-valid verdict was pronounced on 7 July 2009.
VERDICTS

The Council of the Osijek County Court passed a verdict on 8 April 2004 which rejected the indictment with regard to the 4th defendant Milan Šarić pursuant to Article 353, item 6 of the Criminal Procedure Act (hereinafter: the ZKP) in relation to Article 1 of the General Amnesty Act.

The defendant Pavlović was acquitted of charges that he oversaw the interrogation of Popovac inhabitants Kramar and Mikec on which occasion they were beaten up, and that he ordered the apprehension of Zvonko Geto and then he oversaw the interrogation of Zvonko Geto and Goran Knez, on which occasion they were beaten up.

The defendants Pavlović, Urukalo and Berberović were pronounced guilty of committing criminal acts referred to in other counts of the indictment.

The defendant Pavlović received a prison sentence in the duration of 2 years and 6 months.

The defendant Urukalo received a prison sentence in the duration of 2 years for the criminal act referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH, and a prison sentence in the duration of 6 months for the criminal act referred to in Article 335, paragraph 1 of the KZ, thus he was pronounced a joint prison sentence in the duration of 2 years and 2 months.

The defendant Berberović received a prison sentence in the duration of 1 year and 6 months.

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia, at the session held on 18 March 2008, altered the first instance verdict in the sentencing section in relation to the defendant Urukalo and the criminal act of unlawful possession of weapons and explosive devices referred to in Article 335, paragraph 1 of the KZ and, in relation to that act, the Supreme Court sentenced him to 6 months in prison.

In the remaining sentencing and acquitting sections the verdict was quashed and reversed to the first instance court for a re-trial, due to essential violation of the criminal procedure provisions from Article 367, paragraph 1, item 11 of the ZKP because the first instance court passed both the sentencing and the acquitting verdict for the same act which makes the enacting terms of the verdict in relation to that act incomprehensible and contradictory by itself.

In other sections the first instance verdict was upheld.

You can read the verdict and ruling of the Supreme Court of the RoC of 18 March 2008 here (PDF, 184 KB). (in Croatian)

After the conducted repeated procedure, the Osijek County Court pronounced a non-valid verdict on 7 July 2009 in which the defendants Pavlović, Urukalo and Berberović were found guilty. The defendant Stojan Pavlović was sentenced to 3 years in prison, the defendant Đuro Urukalo to 2 years in prison and the defendant Branko Berberović to 1 year and 6 months in prison.

You can read the aforementioned verdict of 7 July 2009 here. (in Croatian)

The Supreme Court at its session held on 9 February 2010 upheld the verdict of the first-instance court.

 

OPINION

After the conducted repeated procedure, the Osijek County Court pronounced a non-valid verdict on 7 July 2009 in which the defendants Pavlović, Urukalo and Berberović were found guilty. By applying the provisions on mitigating the sentence, the defendant Pavlović was sentenced to 3 years in prison, the defendant Urukalo to 2 years in prison and the defendant Berberović to 1 year and six months in prison.

The court ruled that the defendants Pavlović, Urukalo and Berberović committed a war crime against civilians referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZ RH in the period between August 1991 and the end of 1996 in the village of Popovac in Baranja area because the defendant Pavlović, as a member of the Popovac Territorial Defence Headquarters and president of the committee for accommodating refugees at the Popovac Local Board, the defendant Urukalo as a member of the Headquarters and Head of the civilian protection and the defendant Berberović as a member of the Territorial Defence, with the intention to make the village of Popovac an ethnically clean Serb area, participated in the work of the Headquarters where decisions were executed which exposed civilian non-Serb population to physical and mental abuse, unlawful arrests and apprehensions, interrogation, beating and torture, forced labour, holding hostages and various other forms of intimidation, as the result of which the major part of non-Serb population of Popovac had to abandon their homes and cross over to the free part of the RoC.

The first trial was conducted in 2004[1]. The procedure was conducted against four defendants. Following the change of qualification of the act into criminal act of armed rebellion, the verdict rejected the indictment in relation to the 4th defendant Milan Šarić. The 1st defendant Stojan Pavlović was acquitted of charged in relation to two counts from the indictment, and was pronounced guilty in relation to the remaining counts from the indictment and was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in prison. The 2nd defendant Đuro Urukalo received 2 years in prison for a war crime against civilians and 6 months for the criminal act of unlawful possession of weapons and explosive devices, thus he received a joint sentence in the duration of 2 years and 2 months. The 3rd defendant Branko Berberović received a prison sentence in the duration of 1.5 years for the committed war crime against civilians.

On 18 March 2008, the Supreme Court of the RoC altered the first instance verdict in the sentencing section in relation to the defendant Urukalo. The Supreme Court sentenced him to 6 months in prison for the criminal act of unlawful possession of weapons and explosive devices.

In the remaining (sentencing and acquitting) sections, the verdict of the first instance court was quashed and the case was reversed to the first instance court for a re-trial, due to essential violation of the criminal procedure provisions because the first instance court passed both the sentencing and the acquitting verdict for the same act[2].

In the repeated procedure the evidence was not presented once again but, with the consent of the parties, their reading was simply stated. Since we did not monitor the first trial (in 2004) and with regard to what was stated in the previous sentence, we are not familiar with the fact whether the injured parties were advised at that time about the possibility of filing a proprietary claim and what did they state with regard to that possibility, but in the enacting terms of the verdict from 7 July 2009 it was not decided on (possible) proprietary claims.

Furthermore, in the statement of reasons of the verdict the Court did not clarify the defendants’ guilt. It was only stated that the defendants consciously performed actions and activities directed towards violating the provisions of the Geneva Conventions. Namely, bearing in mind that a war crime against civilians can only be committed with intention (direct or indirect) and that the degree of criminal responsibility is a circumstance taken into account when determining a sentence, we are of the opinion that more attention should be paid to the circumstances which affect the severity of the sentence, particularly bearing in mind the fact that, when determining the sentence, the provisions on reducing the sentence were applied due to particularly mitigating circumstances. The Court acknowledged for Urukalo and Berberović, inter alia, their social situation and their unemployment as mitigating circumstances but, in spite of that, the Court obliged them to pay the expenses of the criminal procedure in the lump sum of HRK 3,000.00, the same amount that the defendant Pavlović was obliged to pay although his material conditions are much better than those of the aforementioned two defendants.

You can read the overview of the procedure here. (in Croatian)



[1] We did not monitor that trial.

[2] The Supreme Court of the RoC explained that it was not legally possible in the enacting terms of the verdict to sentence and acquit the defendant for the same factual description of activities because all activities of a prolonged criminal act constitute one single criminal act and represent a unique event and it must be judged as a single criminal act.