Bosnian Court Urged to Acquit Croats of Abusing Prisoners

30. June 2020.13:11
Lawyers for former Croatian Defence Council military policemen argued that they should be acquitted of mistreating Bosniak prisoners at a military jail in Ljubuski from 1993-94 during the Bosnian war.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

Defence lawyers for Vice Bebek and Vinko Radisic, two of the seven former Croatian Defence Council military policemen who are being retried for allegedly abusing Bosniak prisoners during wartime, argued in closing statements at the Bosnian state court on Tuesday that their clients should be found not guilty.

The five men were initially found guilty in August 2018 of mistreating Bosniak civilians and holding them in inhumane conditions at a military investigative prison in Ljubuski between April 1993 and March 1994.

But the state court’s appeals chamber quashed the verdict and ordered a retrial.

Bebek’s defence lawyer Midhat Koco argued that there was no order or any similar document justifying charges that Bebek had any sort of responsibility for the prisoners.

He said that prison guards like Bebek could not make decisions independently, and that there was no witness evidence that Bebek made any such decisions.

He also said that statements by two witnesses who were held under the same conditions contradicted each other.

“They were together, they survived together, but their testimonies were diametrically opposed,” Koco said.

Lawyer Slavko Asceric, who represents defendant Radisic, argued that his client was only on shift for two days during the period in which he is alleged to have committed crimes – on December 22 and 25, 1993.

The verdict said that Radisic and other guards abused a prisoner on December 21, but he was not on shift on that day, the lawyer insisted.

“There was not even theoretical possibility that my client was there, let alone that he committed the crimes with which he is charged,” he said.

Bebek and Radisic are on trial alongside Ivan Kraljevic, Mato Jelcic, Slavko Skender, Stojan Odak and Dragan Milos.

According to the charges, Kraljevic, Jelcic and Skender were managers of the military investigative prison in Ljubuski, where more than 100 Bosniaks were held at various times from September 1993 to March 1994, while the other defendants were guards.

They are accused of keeping the detained civilians and prisoners of war in bad conditions, allowing them to be mistreated, giving them very little food and using them for forced labour.

The verdict will be handed down on July 17.

This post is also available in: Bosnian