Four wartime Bosnian Croat policemen were acquitted of criminal responsibility for the killings of three members of a Bosniak family during an operation in Capljina in 1993.
The Bosnian state court in Sarajevo on Wednesday acquitted Nikola Zovko, Petar Krndelj, Kreso Rajic and Ivica Cutura of committing crimes against the Bosniak population in the Capljina area in July 1993.
The court said that the prosecution had not proved the allegations in the indictment, which accused the four men of committing the crimes during an operation in the village of Celjevo in the Capljina municipality on July 19, 1993, when three Bosniak civilians were killed.
“It has not been determined beyond reasonable doubt that members of the civil police killed the three members of the Veledar family,” said presiding judge Minka Kreho.
“Besides that, although he personally participated in the operation in Celjevo, the prosecution has not proved that defendant Krndelj led the operation,” Kreho added.
Zovko is the former chief of the police station in Capljina, Krndelj is the former commander of the station, Rajic was the commander in Capljina of the Military Police Squad of the Croatian Defence Council, and Cutura was a serving policeman.
Krndelj, Zovko and Rajic were charged with failing to punish their subordinates, the civil and military policemen who committed the murders.
Kreho said Zovko was not informed about the operation in Celjevo and only found out about it the next day.
“As it has not been proved that members of the civil police committed the murder of the three Veledars in Celjevo, Zovko cannot be held responsible for failing to punish the people who it has not been determined committed the crime,” she said.
None of the witnesses in the trial testified that Rajic had a commanding role in the military police, she added.
“On the basis of all pieces of evidenc,e the chamber has not been able to determine that Rajic had a commanding function in the military police. He could not therefore punish anybody for committing a crime,” she said.
The court also found that there was no evidence that Bosniaks were forcibly taken away by defendant Cutura from the village of Veledarova Mahala to Gabela detention camp.
“Cutura voluntarily took his neighbours to Gabela, thinking they would be safe there. All the witnesses confirmed that Cutura did not force them to go, but their departure was voluntary,” Kreho said.
She also said that the court did not believe the testimony of witness Alaudin Veledar, who according to the indictment was taken to the police station and beaten up after having been arrested.
“The trial chamber will not place its trust in him, because all the other witnesses gave different statements and none of them said Veledar was beaten up and screamed with pain at the police station,” she explained.
The verdict can be appealed.