‘Forgotten’ 1990s Bosnian Court Martial Sentences to be Enforced

3. July 2020.09:54
A court in Orasje in Bosnia says people convicted by the town’s court martial during the 1990s war will soon be asked to start serving their sentences - but some insist that they didn’t even know they were being tried.

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Verdict against Slobodan Sjencic. Photo: Ilustracija

The municipal court in Orasje has told BIRN that it intends to begin to enforce sentences handed down to 47 people, mainly Serbs, who were convicted of war crimes by the court martial in the northern Bosnian town between 1993 and 1995.

“In the upcoming period, the municipal court in Orasje will restart and continue the enforcement of criminal sanctions against people sentenced under those verdicts,” said the municipal court’s president, Zeljko Zivkovic.

The Serb defendants were mainly tried in absentia and some said they did not know about the convictions.

Slobodan Sjencic was convicted as the economy minister in the nearby municipality of Samac for participating in making and implementing decisions which resulted in non-Serbs being made to do forced labour, as well as the confiscation and pillaging of property and forced evictions in the Bosanski Samac area.

But Sjencic said he was never summoned by the court to respond to the accusations.

“I found about it informally and unofficially,” he told BIRN.

He was sentenced in absentia to 13 years in prison for war crimes against the civilian population, but has never been asked to go to serve his sentence, although the verdict has not been annulled.

“Nobody has ever contacted me regarding this case. No official notice about whether we were sentenced or not has arrived,” said Sjencic, who is now chief of the Samac municipality’s finance section.

“I am here. If I wanted to hide, I would not be here. I would not be available for contact,” he said.

The court martial verdicts were almost forgotten until 2015, when Zeljko Zivkovic was appointed president of the municipal court in Orasje.

In the years before this, the verdicts had been forwarded to the justice ministry in Bosnia’s Federation entity and then to the Hague Tribunal for assessment. The Hague Tribunal then sent them to the Bosnian state prosecution in 2004.

After that, there were several years of correspondence about the verdicts between the state prosecution, the Hague Tribunal, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, the cantonal prosecution in the Posavski Canton, the cantonal court in Odzak and the basic court in Modrica.

In February 2016, the municipal court in Orasje forwarded all the verdicts to the basic court in Modrica, ordering it to execute them because it had the territorial jurisdiction. But the Modrica court sent them back to Orasje again in July 2016.

The Orasje municipal court said that a legal possibility exists for the trials to be held again if the basic court in Modrica contacts the defendants, delivers the verdicts and tells them that they can ask for a new trial.

Azra Husarić

This post is also available in: Bosnian (Bosnian)