Serbia’s Appeals Court confirmed the indictment of five Bosnian Serb ex-fighters accused of killing 20 passengers abducted from a train in Strpci in Bosnia in 1993 – over three years after the prosecution charged them.
The Humanitarian Law Centre NGO said on Monday that the indictment of five former Bosnian Serb fighters suspected of the abduction and massacre of 20 passengers seized from a train in Strpci in 1993 has finally been confirmed and the trial can start before Belgrade Higher Court.
“The HLC demands that the Serbian institutions responsible for the prosecution of war crimes conduct these criminal proceedings without further ado,” the Humanitarian Law Centre said in a press release.
The HLC said that the Serbian judicial system has been denying the victims’ families justice for the murder and torture of their relatives for 25 years.
The Belgrade Appeals Court decision comes more than a year after the Higher Court confirmed the charges in 2017, and some three-and-a-half years after the original indictment.
The Serbian war crime prosecutor’s office issued indictments in March 2015 against Gojko Lukic, Ljubisa Vasiljevic, Dusko Vasiljevic, Jovan Lipovac and Dragana Djekic, all former members of the Bosnian Serb Army, for their involvement in the abductions and killings of the civilian victims.
But since 2015, the Higher Court refused to confirm the charges nine times – three times because it requested amendments, and six times because the indictment did not meet its legal requirements, the HLC said.
Ten more former Bosnian Serb fighters who were also arrested at the same time in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina went on trial in Sarajevo for the Strpci crimes in October 2015.
On February 27, 1993 a group of fighters led by Milan Lukic, the chief of the ‘Avengers’ paramilitary unit, ordered the local station manager in Strpci to halt an express from Belgrade which was heading to the Montenegrin coastal town of Bar.
The fighters then forced 20 of them to get off the train. Most were Bosniaks who lived in Serbia or Montenegro. There was also one Croat who was travelling to Montenegro to visit his son, and another man who was never identified.
They were taken by truck to a school in the village of Prelovo near Visegrad, where they were robbed and beaten.
They were then taken onwards to the nearby village of Musici, where they were killed and their bodies thrown in the Drina River.
The remains of three of them have been found in Lake Perucac near Visegrad, while the other bodies are still missing.
Milan Lukic was sentenced by the Hague Tribunal to life imprisonment for wartime crimes in Visegrad, but not for the abductions in Strpci.
A court in Montenegro did however jail a former member of Lukic’s unit, Nebojsa Ranisavljevic, for 15 years over the Strpci case.
During his trial it was proved that there was an advance plan for the abductions and that the Serbian Railway Company had informed the Serbian Interior Ministry and the Yugoslav Army about the possibility of seizing the passengers.
Another former soldier, Mico Jovicic, pleaded guilty before the Bosnian Court in 2016 and was sentenced to five years in prison for the crime.