Crime in Zamlača, Struga and Kozibrod


In February 2009, a main hearing was held at the Sisak County Court in the trial against Đuro Đurić charged for a war crime against civilians pursuant to Article 120, paragraph 1 of the Basic Criminal Law of the Republic of Croatia (OKZRH). After modification of the factual and legal description and the modification of legal qualification of the offence stated in the indictment (legal qualification – war crime- was modified into armed rebellion), on 11 February 2009, the Court Council issued the verdict on suspension of indictment.

INDICTMENT

The defendant Đuro Đurić, together with the first defendant Predrag Orlović et al. was charged that, on 26 July 1991, in the villages of Zamlača, Struga and Kozibrod, as members of paramilitary units of the so-called “Krajina Militia”, armed with long infantry weapons and heavy armament, aiming to undermine and bring down the newly established polity of the Republic of Croatia and aiming to join the municipalities Kostajnica and Dvor to the para-state “SAO Krajina”, and this being a part of their criminal plan, they were expelling Croatian population from the mentioned villages, used the latter before them as the live wall, were setting houses on fire and were planting mines, they killed several persons and seriously injured a larger number of victims, hence by violating the rules of the international law at the time of armed conflict they were killing civilians, performed the robbing of and destruction of property to a large scale and thereby committed a war crime against civilians, punishable pursuant to Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH.
At the main hearing held on 11 February 2009, the County Deputy State’s Attorney modified the factual description, legal description as well as the legal qualification of the offence stated in the indictment to be worded as follows:
“on not precisely determined date during 1991, the defendant Đuro Đurić joined paramilitary units of the so-called SAO Krajina and got into possession of a weapon, with the purpose to undermine and bring down the newly established democratic social order of the Republic of Croatia, which he obviously was not satisfied with, and within such a plan together with other members of paramilitary unitshe participated in the attack on the villages of Zamlača, Struga and Kozibrod on 26 July 1991, with the aim to separate that area from the territory of the Repubic of Croatia and to join that area to the para-state SAO Krajina, and he took part in an armed rebellion directed at jeopardising the state and social organisation and the security of the Republic of Croatia (stipulated by the Constitution), and thereby he committed a criminal offence against the Republic of Croatia – an armed rebellion – described and punishable pursuant to Article 236f, paragraph 1 of the Criminal Law of the Republic of Croatia (KZRH).”
GENERAL INFORMATION

Sisak County Court

Case number: K 29/01

War Crime Council (the panel): judge Melita Avedić, Council President, judges Ljubica Rendulić Holzer and Predrag Jovanić, Council members

Indictment: KT-61/93, issued by the Sisak County State’s Attorney’s Office on 4 November 1994 against Predrag Orlović et al. (another 34 indictees, and Đuro Đurić among them as the 11th indictee), modified at the main hearing held on 11 February 2009

Prosecution: Jadranka Huskić, the Sisak County Deputy State’s Attorney

Criminal offence: a war crime against civilians pursuant to Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH, after the modification of the indictment – armed rebellion pursuant to Article 236f, paragraph 1 of the KZRH

Defendant: Đuro Đurić, was not available to the Croatian judiciary until 3 February 2009; an arrest warrant was issued; the defendant was in detention from 3 February 2009

Defence: Zdravko Baburak, lawyer from Zagreb

Victims – the murdered: Mile Blažević, Pajo Žuljevac, Pajo Knežević, Mile Begić, Mile Pušić, Manda Begić, Pero Španičić, Milan Bartolović, Žarko Gundić, Goran Faljević, Ivica Perić, Mladen Halapa, Branko Vuk, Zoran Šaronja, Davor Vukas, Željko Filipović
TRIAL MONITORING REPORTS

According to the County Deputy State’s Attorney, the proceedings was separated in relation to other defendants, for reasons that majority of them were not available to Croatian judiciary, and that some of the defendants were already tried individually as when they became available. Until present, only the 10th defendant Dragan Vranešević was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment. The defendants Tošo Sundać, Slavko Tadić, Goran Barač, Dušan Badić, Dalibor Borota and Rade Lukač allegedly died or were killed, but since there are no official documents available about it from the relevant institutions, the proceedings against the mentioned persons is still not suspended.

The defendant Đuro Đurić was tried in 2001. At that time he was detained, however, after the detention suspension, he no longer responded to the summons to appear at a hearing. A detention order was issued again against the defendant as well as an arrest warrant, but finally he surrendered voluntarily.
VERDICT

After modification of the legal qualification stated in the indictment, pursuant to Article 353, item 6 of the Criminal Procedure Act (ZKP), and in conjunction with Article 2, paragraph 2 of the General Amnesty Act, the Council pronounced a verdict on suspension of the indictment.

The defendant, pursuant to Article 123, paragraph1 of the ZKP, was exempted from paying the criminal proceedings expenses.

The Council also issued a decision whereby by applying Article 107 of the ZKP the detention order against the defendant was suspended.
OPINION OF THE MONITORING TEAM AFTER THE CONCLUDED TRIAL

The trial against Đuro Đurić before the War Crimes Council of the Sisak County Court was conducted in a correct manner, and despite some minor procedural omissions which we noted when reporting on the main hearing, we have no objections either to the procedure conduct by the court, or to the issued court decision.

The mentioned omissions related to the fact that the witnesses were not cautioned in a prescribed manner stated in Article 324 and Article 236 of the ZKP, although it was entered in the court records that the witness had actually been cautioned in accordance with the mentioned provisions.

However, we find it necessary to note that on the occasion when the County State’s Attorney’s Office was changing the bill of indictment (charges) and the legal qualification stated in the indictment – from the war crime against civilians (referred to in Article 120, paragraph 1 of the OKZRH) into the armed rebellion (referred to in Article 236f, paragraph 1 of the KZRH), it failed to take into consideration the testimony of the witness Marija Stipić, who was the only witness who actually charged the defendant, in sense of a possible extension of the bill of indictment (charges) in that direction and further clarification of the circumstances concerned.

Namely, this witness stated that the def. Đuro Đurić took her to Dvor, to the police station premises, to have her beaten up, resulting with serious physical injuries.

Since this event occurred at the time after the incriminating period, this event could not have been the subject matter of the court ruling in this crime case.

We are of opinion that the modification and amendment to the indictment in this direction, and a possible supplementary investigation could have shed more light on the particular event and could have verified the information, which the witness obtained by hearsay, that the defendant Đuro Đurić took the witness’ mother and brother to the bank of Una river where her mother was slaughtered and thrown into the river, and the brother was handcuffed and also thrown into the river.

The practice of issuing joint indictments against several perpetrators of the same criminal act, which was frequently followed in respect of inaccessible perpetrators of war crime against civilians and other related crimes, and the practice of subsequent separation of the proceedings against an individual defendant who would at a certain moment become reachable to the judiciary, along with retaining the same, very generalized indictment, is in our opinion a highly suspect practice.

In respect of the indictment, and in accordance with the accusatory nature of the Croatian criminal procedure, we find the conducted proceedings and the verdict to be correct.