Bosnia Seeks to Try Croat Major-General
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Former major-general Jelic, who is also well-known for his role in Bosnian football, is due to enter a plea at the state court in Sarajevo in the next few weeks.
But after the Bosnian authorities decided not to transfer the case to Croatia, Jelic, who now lives in Zagreb, may not attend the hearing, which means the trial would not go ahead.
According to the charges, Jelic gave orders to the commander of the Heliodrom detention camp in Mostar for Croatian Defence Council (HVO) fighters to take detainees to the front-line in and around Mostar to do forced labour from May 1993 to March 1994.
The state prosecution estimates that around 50 detainees were killed and 188 wounded as a result, while about 40 were physically abused by members of the Second Battalion of the HVO’s Second Brigade.
The indictment alleges that Jelic knew this exposed the detainees to a risk of being killed, wounded or subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment.
Jelic was charged in his capacity as the commander of the First Active Battalion of the HVO’s military police and the First Light Assault Battalion of the military police.
The state prosecution filed an indictment against Jelic late last year on the basis of an investigation opened by the prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
Jelic has denied the charges.
“I am a retired general of the Croatian Army, I have citizenship of the Republic of Croatia (RH) and a place of residence in the RH,” he said in a written statement after the indictment was filed.
“I have never been on the run, because I have nothing and no one to run away from,” he added.
Jelic left Bosnia and Herzegovina four years ago, moving from Siroki Brijeg near Mostar to Zagreb with his family and renouncing Bosnian citizenship.
He said he was questioned about the case in Zagreb in February last year and that he would insist on having his case taken over by the Croatian judiciary.
But the Bosnian prosecution has not referred the case to Croatia and probably will not, BIRN was told.
A former detainee at the Heliodrom detention centre said he remembered seeing Jelic there and recognised him from his pre-war involvement in football.
“When he saw me, he asked me what I was doing there,” the former detainee, who asked to remain anonymous, told BIRN.
“He was ashamed, because I had known him as a young man who played at the right-back position in the Mladost football team from Listica. He turned around and left,” the former detainee added.
After the end of the war, Jelic became the manager of the Siroki Brijeg football club and a member of the executive board of the Football Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Jelic’s influence on football in the Western Herzegovina area was illustrated when the leagues in the country’s Federation entity united only after he gave the move the green light.
After the war, he also became the commander of the Bosnian Army’s First Croatian Guards Corps, but was suspended by the commander of NATO’s Stabilisation Force, SFOR over an alleged ethical violation.
The prosecution alleges that Jelic acted in collaboration with Miljenko Lasic, the commander of the South-Eastern Herzegovina Operational Zone, Stanko Bozic, the manager of Heliodrom detention camp, Ilija Vrljic, the commander of the Second HVO Brigade, as well as Mile Puljic, the commander of the Second Battalion of the Second HVO Brigade.
The trial of Puljic for war crimes against Bosniaks in Mostar is also currently underway at the state court.