Arbitrary Verdict, Short Sentences
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The Defence teams requested the Appellate Chamber of the Court of BiH to either acquit the indictees or quash the first instance verdict, saying that it was based on an arbitrary assessment of evidence.
In March the Court of BiH pronounced Soldat guilty of having ordered and Babic and Djuric with having taken Bosniak men from their houses in Carakovo village and shot them in front of the local mosque. The three men were sentenced to 21 years in prison each for having committed this crime.
“The first instance Chamber pronounced a short sentence within the long imprisonment sentences span. The Court gave too much importance to the mitigating circumstances, like the fact that the indictees were family men and that Babic was a disabled person,” Prosecutor Ozrenka Neskovic said.
She mentioned that the aggravating circumstances were determined correctly, but they had a special gravity, so the sentence should therefore be much longer.
The Defence of indictee Soldat pointed out that the explanation of the first instance verdict was arbitrary and that it contained incorrect quotes of what the witnesses had said.
“Instead of being based on evidence, they interpreted them in order to adjust them to the verdict itself… We have substantiated all of the incorrect allegations on the 100 pages of our appeal,” Defence attorney Savan Zec said.
Ranko Dakic, Defence attorney of Djuric, said that the verdict did not contain reasons for decisive facts.
“The Defence witnesses said that Djuric was on Mount Kozara constantly during July. The Chamber says that the alibi is unacceptable, but it does not explain why,” Dakic said.
According to Dakic, the credibility of key witness Sead Susic was made suspicious, because, during the investigation he said that a man named Goran Gruban was present at the crime scene, but he failed to mention that at the trial.
Prosecutor Neskovic said that the investigation against Gruban was discontinued, because the Prosecution did not find sufficient evidence for a grounded suspicion that he participated in this crime.
Babic’s Defence attorney Slavica Bajic commented on the allegation contained in the first instance verdict, that Defence witnesses were instructed and in danger of accusing themselves.
“The only way to determine Babic’s whereabouts was by examining the other members of the Interventions Squad… The witnesses said that he was next to the viaduct and that he did not leave his Unit,” Bajic said, adding that the identification of witness Susic was unacceptable.
Babic was a member of the Interventions Squad with Prijedor police, Soldat was military policeman with the 43rd Brigade of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, while Djuric was member of the Information Centre Unit.
Indictee Babic said that he would like the perpetrators of this crime to be identified, pointing out that he did not enter Carakovo village or kill those people.
The Appellate Chamber will render a decision concerning the appeals at a later stage.