State Court Hands Down More than 400 Years for War Crimes

30. December 2011.00:00
Over the past year, Bosnia's State Court sentenced 33 people for war crimes committed in different parts of the country during the 1992-95 war, handing down a total of 436 years in prison.

Four indictees were found not guilty under second-instance verdicts, for crimes in the Kula Penal and Correctional Facility in East Sarajevo and Zvornik. The state court saw a number of “firsts” over the past year, including the first indictment against a woman, the trial for which is currently ongoing.The first indictment for false testimony at a war crimes trial in Bosnia was raised this year, as well as the first for the revelation of the identity of a protected witnesses.In 2011, the greatest number of plea agreements were reached since the opening of the War Crimes Section of the court. The plea deals accepted by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina resulted in verdicts against eight persons and sentences totaling 70 years in prison.Over the past year, several people were successfully extradited to Bosnia to face war crimes charges.Edin Dzeko and Rasema Handanovic were handed over to Bosnia’s judiciary from the United States, to face charges of war crimes committed in Konjic, and Zemir Kovacevic was transferred from Sweden to Bosnia over allegations of having committed crimes in Sijekovac near Bosanski Brod.At the request of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, an international warrant for Velibor Bogdanovic was issued. Bogdanovic failed to appear at the pronouncement of a first instance verdict which sentenced him to six years in prison for the rape and imprisonment of civilians in Mostar in 1993.A closer look at the verdictsIn 2011, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina issued a total of 31 verdicts for war crimes, including nine first-instance verdicts, eleven second-instance verdicts and eight plea agreements.The longest prison term handed down in 2011 was part of a second-instance decision against Milorad Trbic for genocide committed in Srebrenica. Trbic, Assistant Commander for Security of the Zvornik Brigade of the Republika Srpska Army (VRS), was sentenced to 30 years behind bars.In January, Trbic was found guilty of participating in the capture, imprisonment and executions of Bosniaks from Srebrenica, as well as for burying and hiding victims’ bodies.The shortest second-instance prison sentence was handed down against Sefik Alic, Assistant Commander for Security in the Battalion “Hamze” with the Fifth Corps of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who was ordered to spend ten years in jail for crimes committed in Bosanska Krajina in 1995.In 2011 the Appellate Chamber rendered five decisions which reversed first-instance verdicts and ordered retrials. Four retrials have since been completed. The sentences for some indictees remained the same, while some have been reduced.Such is the case of four men convicted of crimes committed in Vojno, near Mostar. The second-instance court cut their sentences by a total of 11 years. The court also reduced the sentence for Krsto Savic, convicted of war crimes in Eastern Herzegovina, from 20 to 17 years in prison.The Appellate Chamber rendered one verdict for crimes committed in Kalinovik, in which the penalty was increased. Ratko Bundalo, wartime Commander of the Tactical Group in Kalinovik, was sentenced to 19 years behind bars under the first-instance verdict, a period that was increased to 22 years under the second-instance decision. The sentence of 15 years in prison for Nedjo Zeljaja, former Commander of the Public Safety Station in Kalinovik, was confirmed.The Appellate Chamber also ordered a retrial for Djordjislav Askraba, who was indicted along with Bundalo and Zeljaja, which is still ongoing.Perennial Prison SentencesTwelve people were sentenced under first-instance verdicts over the past year, and received a total of 128 years in prison for crimes committed in Sarajevo, Mostar, Bugojno Kalinovik, Kotor-Varos, Doboj, Konjic and Srebrenica.The longest first-instance sentence was rendered to Slavko Peric, former Assistant Commander for Security of the First Battalion of the Zvornik Brigade, who was given 19 years in prison.Momir Pelemis, former Deputy Commander of the First