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Zelenovic Gets 15 Years

26. April 2007.00:00
Former Bosnian Serb military police deputy commander, who pleaded guilty to crimes committed against civilians in Foca, is jailed at the Hague tribunal.

This post is also available in: Bosnian (Bosnian)

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has sentenced Dragan Zelenovic to 15 years imprisonment for crimes committed against non-Serb civilians in Foca.

After making a deal with the Prosecution, on January 17, 2007 Zelenovic pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in further investigations that could potentially be conducted.

Admitting his guilt, Zelenovic accepted responsibility for nine rapes he personally committed, two rapes in which he was one of the perpetrators, and participation in four group rapes. The victims include underage girls whose testimonies are in the ICTY’s possession.

In passing the verdict, the Trial Chamber listed “the scope of the committed crimes” as an aggravating circumstance, as well as the fact that the victims were “especially vulnerable, unarmed and detained at the time when the crimes were committed”.

“Victims of the crime suffered unutterable pain, fear and humiliation. That leaves deep scars that will never heal and perhaps that fact itself speaks of the gravity of the committed crimes,” Judge Alfons Orie noted in explaining the verdict.

The Chamber accepted the guilty plea as a mitigating circumstance in the verdict, explaining that the act “spares the victims from having to relive the tortures while testifying before the court”.

Another mitigating circumstance that influenced the sentence is the regret expressed by Zelenovic on January 17 of this year, after he admitted his guilt.

The Hague judges also noted that Zelenovic expressed willingness to cooperate in the prosecution’s future investigations, and noted that he does not have a previous criminal record.

The original indictment against Zelenovic, which included seven more indictees charged with the same crimes, was filed by ICTY in June of 1996. The indictment included Gojko Jankovic, whose case was processed in BiH and who was sentenced to 34 years imprisonment; Radovan Stankovic, whose case was also processed in Sarajevo and who received a 16-year sentence; Dragan Gagovic, who died in 1999; Janko Janjic, who was killed during an arrest attempt in 2000; Radomir Kovac, who was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by the ICTY; Zoran Vukovic who was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment, and Dragoljub Kunarac, who was sentenced to 28 years imprisonment.

After being at large for nine years, Zelenovic was arrested in August 2005 by Russian Federation authorities in west Siberia.

He first appeared before the ICTY judges on July 14, 2006 when he pleaded not guilty. He changed his mind at the beginning of this year and, in agreement with the prosecution, accepted responsibility for seven out of 14 counts of the indictment that charged him with tortures and rapes.

Zelenovic, who was born in 1961 in Foca, admitted that he raped a 15-year-old girl in Buk Bijela in Foca, and again in the Partizan sports hall. He also admitted that he assisted and encouraged the rape of another woman in Buk Bijela.

According to the agreement, Zelenovic also accepted the responsibility for raping women and girls in the high school centre in Foca, as well as for raping four women who were detained in the notorious Karaman house.

The Prosecution proposed a ten- to 15-year prison sentence for the indictee, while the defence asked for seven to ten years’ imprisonment.

In November 2004, the ICTY prosecution proposed the transfer of Zelenovic’s case to the Court of BiH, in accordance with the tribunal’s exit strategy.

The 15-year sentence includes the time spent in custody and, therefore, the sentence will be reduced by a total of 591 days.

This post is also available in: Bosnian (Bosnian)