Stankovic: On the Run for Two Years

25. May 2009.14:34
Trail goes cold on man sentenced to 20 years’ jail for rape crimes in Foca.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

Two years since his escape from Foca prison, the investigative bodies of Bosnia and Herzegovina have no clues about Radovan Stankovic’s whereabouts.

Stankovic, who was sentenced by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina to 20 years’ imprisonment for crimes against humanity, has not been located since his flight from Foca, eastern Bosnia.

The police have indicted ten people on the grounds of aiding or abetting Stankovic’s escape, but their trial has not begun.

Justice Report has learned that no firm new information exists on the fugitive, though indications suggest he may be hiding in Serbia or Kosovo.

“The law enforcement agencies of Bosnia and Herzegovina are still looking for fugitive Stankovic. A warrant has been issued against him,” Boris Grubesic, spokesperson fort the State Prosecution, said.

The State Investigation and Protection Agency, SIPA, says it has undertaken “a thorough and comprehensive investigation” in collaboration with the State Prosecution “with the aim of determining the circumstances of Stankovic’s escape from the Foca prison and his eventual discovery and arrest”.

Stankovic fled from the Penal and Correctional Facility, KPD, in Foca on May 25, 2007 while guards were taking him to the Dental Faculty “for a tooth X-ray”.

Two months earlier a second instance verdict pronounced him guilty of crimes committed in Foca in 1992. He was originally charged before the Hague Tribunal, ICTY, but his case was transferred to Bosnia for further processing in September 2005.

Stankovic was sentenced, as a member of the Miljevina Battalion of Foca Tactical Brigade with the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, with having been an organiser and supervisor of the so-called “Karaman kuca” in Foca. A detention centre for women and girls, Serbian soldiers referred to it openly as “a brothel”.

The verdict pronounced by the State Court said nine girls and young women aged 12 to 24 were detained there from April to October 1992. The court determined that all had been physically and mentally abused or raped in various ways, while it held Stankovic responsible for the rape of three women.

Shortly after his flight the Bosnian authorities said they suspected Stankovic was in Serbia, as he had obtained Serbian citizenship in December 2004, while being held in the ICTY detention unit. Under its constitution, Serbia cannot extradite citizens to other countries.

Zeljka Kujundzija, spokesperson of SIPA, told Justice Report that the agency had established a degree of cooperation with Serbian investigative bodies during the course of the search for Stankovic.

“Direct cooperation was established with police officials of the Serbian Interior Ministry. In this context a certain number of working meetings were held, at which available data was exchanged,” Kujundzija said, without giving further details.

According to her, during the investigation of Stankovic’s flight several people possibly associated with the planning and organizing his escape were identified.

In September 2008, the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina filed an indictment against ten people, charging them with having helped Stankovic escape. However, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared itself incompetent to process those persons.

“After the Court declared itself incompetent in this case, we appealed the decision. We are now awaiting a decision by the Appellate Chamber,” Grubesic said.

Mile Krsmanovic, Miroslav Blagojevic, Zdravko Vreco, Dragan Masic, Srdjan Vilotic, Miro Prodanovic and Goran Milosevic are charged with “unprincipled actions while on duty”, Brankica Davidovic and Ranka Dragicevic with “falsification of documents”, and the fugitive’s brother, Ranko Stankovic, with “facilitation of the flight of a convict”. They have all pleaded not guilty on all accounts.

At the beginning of the trial of the ten people, February this year, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina determined that the Prosecution had “failed to offer evidence proving that this crime caused harmful consequences to the international reputation of this country”, referring the case to a lower court.

ICTY representatives do not share this view. Shortly after Stankovic’s flight and in the subsequent months they expressed dissatisfaction over the fact that he had not been arrested, maintaining that it had in fact damaged “the reputation of judicial and other institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

Stankovic was the first of ten indictees whose cases were referred by the ICTY to the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina for further processing. SFOR arrested him in the summer of 2002, when he was ordered into custody.

Following his escape, Interpol issued a warrant against Stankovic. Representatives of the Sarajevo Office of Interpol did not want to comment on whether there were any new pieces of information concerning the fugitive. In an earlier interview, they told Justice Report that all data pertaining to the case were “confidential” and could therefore not be released in public.

All the data available to the public is contained in the warrant that can be found on the Interpol web page. This includes his personal data and a description of his physical appearance, which notes that Stankovic has “hazel eyes and curly hair”.

The Foca prison from which Stankovic escaped is considered one of the two safest prisons in the country.

Merima Husejnovic is BIRN – Justice Report journalist. [email protected]. Justice Report is weekly online BIRN publication.

Merima Hrnjica

This post is also available in: Bosnian