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Data from the ministry suggests that the resources were allocated to foundations helping defendants and their families, and given in direct assistance to defendants’ lawyers.
The ministry said that 650,000 Bosnian marks (around 333,000 euros) will be set aside to support the defence of former members of the Bosnian Army in 2020.
“We plan to allocate the amount of 200,000 marks to support the foundations’ projects and 450,000 marks as direct assistance to individuals,” the ministry said in written comments to BIRN.
It said that the money allocated for this purpose was extremely important.
“With this type of help you provide support to members of the veteran population and protect the achievements of the defence-liberation war, which is the primary task of the Ministry for War Veterans’ Affairs,” it said.
“We point out that these actions do not justify individual crimes by members of the armed forces of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which unfortunately happened. We consider that everybody should answer for their actions, but we want to help defendants and their families to try to defend themselves from accusations in a dignified manner,” it added.
One of the recipients of financial aid was Mirsada Mujanovic, the wife of Husein Mujanovic, who was convicted in a first-instance verdict at the Higher Court in Belgrade of beating Serbs in a prison which, according to the charges, was managed by the Bosnian Army near Sarajevo during the war.
Mujanovic said she got help from some foundations, but the amount was small in comparison to her needs.
“I applied to some foundations, I got some help, but it was not a significant amount; I even took a loan,” Mujanovic said.
One such foundation, the Patriotic Front Hadzici Foundation, was awarded 120,000 Bosnian Marks (around 61,000 euros) last year by the Sarajevo Canton, which it said it used to help eight defendants accused of wartime crimes in the Hadzici area.
In July 2019, the state court quashed the first-instance verdict convicting the eight men, and ordered a new trial.
“We pay all the financial resources that have been collected to the bank accounts of families of the defendants from the municipality of Hadzici. We have concluded an agreement with them to help them by co-financing the defence costs,” said Alija Kazic, president of the governing board of the Patriotic Front Hadzici Foundation.
Kazic said that while the defendants were held in custody, the foundation also helped their families by providing basic supplies, school materials for their children and firewood.
Branko Todorovic, executive director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said he was not surprised by the amount allocated as this has become established practice, showing that local authorities have not dissociated themselves from war crime defendants and convicts.
“I would find it more logical if the Sarajevo Canton allocated resources for war victims, victims of war crimes and victims of criminals,” he said.
“The priority for Bosnian society is obviously the protection, care, safeguarding and affirmation of war criminals, not victims. That is our devastating reality,” he added.