‘Unwell’ Bosnian Serb General’s Trial Suspended to September 2021

18. November 2020.15:12
Novak Djukic, who has already been convicted in Bosnia of the 1995 Tuzla massacre, needs further psychiatric treatment and is not well enough to participate in his trial in Serbia until September next year, medical experts said.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

Novak Djukic in court during his original trial in Sarajevo.

Novak Djukic, the wartime commander of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Ozren Tactical Group, will not be able to appear at Belgrade Higher Court until September 2021 at the earliest due to his mental health problems, a medical examination has concluded.

Belgrade Higher Court told BIRN that the court’s expert medical commission submitted a report on September 14 that stated that Djukic would not be able to attend hearings for the next 12 months, and that he should be reassessed after that.

Djukic was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2014 by the Bosnian state court, which found him guilty of ordering the shelling of the Tuzla Gate area of the Bosnian town of Tuzla on May 25, 1995. A total of 71 people, most of them young, were killed.

But when Djukic was due to start serving his sentence, he did not turn up. His defence said that he was undergoing medical treatment in Serbia.

Djukic is a Serbia citizen, which means he cannot be extradited to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbia was then asked to take over the enforcement of the verdict under a legal cooperation agreement between the two countries.

However, due to his medical condition, Belgrade Higher Court has been repeatedly postponed its decision in the case for several years.

In January 2018, the Clinic for Psychiatry of Military Medical Academy confirmed to court that Djukic was admitted there. In April the same year, the court ordered an expert medical analysis to determine whether he was fit to attend hearings.

The expert commission concluded in June 2018 that Djukic could not appear in court because it would “worsen his health and compromise his ongoing treatment”.

The commission said that “a high possibility of self-destructive behaviour is noted, and the commission of court experts is of the opinion that the accused Novak Djukic is currently not capable of participating in the criminal proceedings”.

In April 2019, a new medical analysis was ordered but it did not reach the court for months. One of experts on the commission then died, so a new member was appointed and another new analysis ordered, which arrived in September this year.

Amid the delays, there have been repeated attempts in Serbia to deny the Bosnian court’s findings that the Tuzla Gate massacre was committed by Bosnian Serb forces.

Last November, the Serbian Defence Ministry hosted a promotional event for a new book that claims to prove that Bosnian Serb forces did not shell the town, and that the deadly blast was caused by an explosive device pre-planted by others.

Djukic’s defence team has also established a website to promote his case and has staged what it described as a reconstruction of the incident at a Serbian Army centre, during which it simulated a shell attack on models of buildings.

Djukic’s team claim they proved that the people who died could not have been killed by a shell fired from the Bosnian Serb’s Army positions.

Milica Stojanović

This post is also available in: Bosnian