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After a marathon six-year trial, the Bosnian state court on Thursday found former fighters Edhem Godinjak, Medaris Saric and Mirko Bunoza not guilty of war crimes against civilians and prisoners of war.
The verdict said that the men were acquitted of involvement in a ‘joint criminal enterprise’ which had the aim of committing “multiple murders of Serb civilians in villages located in the Trnovo municipality, their unlawful arrest and incarceration in detention facilities set up in the territory of Trnovo municipality and setting their property ablaze”.
It also cleared the three men of involvement in the killing and inhumane treatment of captured Bosnian Serb Army soldiers in detention facilities set up in the Trnovo municipality.
Godinjak was charged as chief of the police’s Public Security Centre in Trnovo and as a member of what was known as the War Presidency in the municipality, Saric as commander of the Territorial Defence Headquarters in Trnovo, and Bunoza as a commander of Croatian Defence Forces units.
They were further acquitted of the unlawful detention of civilians and deliberately inflicting serious physical and psychological pain and suffering.
“For the sake of the victims and the public, I want to say that what led to the acquittal is solely the failure of the prosecution,” said presiding judge Mediha Pasic.
Pasic said that there were a large number of crimes against Serb civilians in Trnovo that could not haved remained unknown to local commanders and those higher up, but knowing about the crimes was not in itself incriminating if other circumstances are not proven.
“The chamber gets the impression that the prosecution charged the accused only because they had the status [as commanders] that they had in the area,” she added.
This was a first-instance verdict and can be appealed.