Serbian Court Convicts Bosnian Serb of Wartime Assault

24. September 2019.16:18
A court in Belgrade jailed former Bosnian Serb fighter Zeljko Budimir for two years for assaulting and robbing a Bosniak civilian in Bosnia’s Kljuc municipality during wartime in November 1992. Belgrade Higher Court on Tuesday sentenced Bosnian Serb ex-fighter Zeljko Budimir to two years in prison for beating up a Bosnian civilian and stealing his money in the village of Rejzovici in the Kljuc municipality in November 1992.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

But the court acquitted Budimir of participating in the murders of the Bosniak man’s wife and mother.

According to the indictment, Budmir was one of three fighters who broke into the house of Ale Strkonjic in Rejzovici at around 11pm on November 21, 1992, and beat him up and stabbed him.

Strkonjic gave the men the money they were demanding – some 5,800 German marks – and then escaped.

One of the two other fighters who was with Budmir approached Strkonjic’s wife Fatima, pulled out his gun and shot her in the head, then killed her mother, Fata Koljic, with a knife, the indictment alleged.

However, the court cleared Budmir of involvement in the killings, with judge Vinka Beraha Nikcevic saying that there was not enough evidence to convict him.

“The prosecutor did not describe what actions Zeljko Budimir took with the aim of depriving Fatima Strkonjic and Fata Koljic of their lives, so it cannot be determined what actions he took that contributed to them being deprived of their lives,” said Beraha Nikcevic.

The judge said that the two-year sentence was imposed because Budmir was young when the crime was committed and now has three children, and because a lot of time has passed since the incident.

The indictment did not specify to which military group or unit the defendant belonged.

During the trial, he said that at the beginning of the war in 1992 he was in the reserve police force, and later in the summer of 1992, he was sent to the battlefield in Kupres in Bosnia.

However, he said that from October 13 to December 1, 1992 – the period in which the crime was committed – he was released from military service.

Budmir’s main defence was that on the night of the attack, he was at home for a family celebration, and that he went to propose his girlfriend, who lived in the neighbouring village.

His girlfriend, who has since become his wife, also testified in court and backed up his story.

The two other men involved, Predrag Bajic and Mladenko Vrtunic, were convicted of the murders of the two women and the attack on Strkonjic by the cantonal court in Bihac in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.

As Budimir lives in Serbia, his case was tranfered to Belgrade, where his trial started in April 2018.

His case is typical of the 14 indictments issued by the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office in 2017 and 2018. The indictments generally charge one or two people who are not high-ranking army or police officers and are accused of crimes against a small number of victims, as BIRN has previously reported.

This is a first-instance verdict and can be appealed.

This post is also available in: Bosnian