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Local justice – Jurisic: Retrial Full of Uncertainties

20. October 2010.00:00
After the first instance verdict against Ilija Jurisic was abolished by a Belgrade appeals court, the Jurisic's Defence is awaiting the next step by the Serbian war crimes prosecutor with much trepidation.

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The Serbian prosecution has yet to decide among three options for a retrial before a new Trial Chamber.By the end of the main hearing, the prosecutor will be able to change, extend or even give up the indictment, but Djordje Dozet, Jurisic’s defence attorney, doubts it will choose to give up the case against his client.”I am certain that the prosecutor’s decision would be based on something that is not right. Whatever he decides it will be an attempt to repair the consequences of the procedure so far or simply move the fire into someone else’s yard.”We are always prepared for a legal battle, because there you either have arguments or you don’t, and we certainly have them,“ said Dozet.

The Appeals Court in Belgrade on October 11 abolished the first-instance verdict which sentenced Ilija Jurisic to 12 years’ imprisonment for issuing a “direct” order for the attack on the column of the Yugoslav National Army soldiers withdrawing from the town on May 15, 1992. At the time Jurisic was a senior officer on duty in the operative headquarters of the Centre of Security Services in Tuzla.According to the Belgrade prosecution, at least 51 members of the Yugoslav National Army were killed and around 50 wounded, while a number of army and medical vehicles were destroyed.After the verdict was rendered in September 2009, the Prosecution and Defence filed appeals, asking for a harsher sentence and acquittal, respectively. The Appeals Court then abolished the verdict and ordered a retrial. After the appeals ruling, Jurisic was set free and he returned to Tuzla.“I must not be a scapegoat like I was before. When I recover from this, I will start working on collecting answers to the questions observed by the Appeals Court and firmer evidence which will additionally shake the indictment and verdict of the first-instance court,” Jurisic told Justice Report.Jurisic was arrested on May 14, 2007, at the Belgrade airport Nikola Tesla under an international warrant. His trial began in February 2008, after he pleaded not guilty.Numerous non-governmental organisations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region emphasised that the indictment and the entire first-instance trial against Jurisic have a “political background”, and that the process against him should be held in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he is a citizen.Immediately upon the release of Jurisic from custody, the Humanitarian Law Centre from Belgrade issued a press release pointing to “innumerable errors” made by the first-instance court.

The press release specifies that the first-instance chamber, among other things, dismissed the proposal by the Defence to examine witnesses who had knowledge of the activities and competencies of Jurisic, “thus giving up its most important task – fully establishing the facts and responsibility of the defendant.””In our opinion, the main omission was the Court declining to examine these witnesses without an appropriate explanation. This error was corrected by the Appeals Court,” said Mirjana Lazic, an observer at the Humanitarian Law Centre.

Having in mind that the competent bodies of the Republic of Serbia have no means to secure Jurisic’s presence at a retrial, the Humanitarian Law Centre recommended that he to respond to the call of the new Chamber and take part in the retrial, which he says he intends to do.”I don’t mind where I am going to be processed, because I am not afraid of the truth. What I am afraid of is whether it is going to be used by a conscientious judiciary or abused and politicized,” Jurisic said.

This post is also available in: Bosnian