Vitez War Crimes Trial Has Begun

14. March 2016.00:00
The trial of former Bosnian Army members Minet Akeljic, Saban Haskic, Senad Bilal, Hazim Patkovic and Semsudin Djelilovic began with a reading of the indictment and the state prosecution’s opening statements. The defendants have been charged with committing war crimes against Croat civilians and prisoners of war in Kruscica in the municipality of Vitez.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

At today’s hearing, prosecutor Gordana Tadic said she would demonstrate that the defendants committed the crimes described in the indictment through the examination of 18 witnesses (including three protected witnesses) and a court medical expert. She also said the prosecution would present voluminous material documentation.

“The injured parties will be the key witnesses. They clearly recognize them both by their faces and their names,” Tadic said.

Tadic said witness testimony would clearly demonstrate that the actions of the defendants weren’t justified by military necessity.

Tadic said a second group of witnesses, consisting of former soldiers and military policemen, would describe how the Crna Kuca detention facility was guarded as well as the hierarchy of the military police.

Tadic said the injured parties were civilians and prisoners of war. She said one of the injured parties was 16 and another was 18 when the crimes were committed. She also said some elderly individuals were among the civilian injured parties.

“One should point out that prisoner of war Vinko Cerkez was among them. He was declared dead, but his body has still not been found,” Tadic said.

Semsudin Djelilovic’s defense said it denied the charges against him, describing them as false allegations. Djelilovic’s defense also said the legal classification of the crime was incorrect, as the law was applied retroactively.

At the beginning of the hearing the prosecution read the indictment, which contains 29 counts. Akeljic, Haskic, Bilal, Patkovic and Djelilovic have been charged with participating in crimes against Croat civilians and prisoners of war in Kruscica from July to November 1993.

The indictment alleges that Akeljic was the commander of the military police of the First Battalion of the 325th Mountain Brigade of the Bosnian Army, while Haskic, Bilal, Patkovic and Djelilovic were members of that unit. According to the charges, the defendants took Croat detainees out of the Crna Kuca detention facility in Kruscica and mentally, physically and sexually abused them.

The indictment further alleges that detainees were forced, among other acts of abuse, to fight with each other and dig trenches. They were allegedly forcibly taken to the frontlines with explosive belts and were exposed to cross-fire.

Haskic and Bilal have also been charged with physically and sexually abusing two detainees.

The first prosecution witness will be examined on March 28.

Lamija Grebo

This post is also available in: Bosnian