Bosnia’s Constitutional Court Rejects Babic Appeal Over Prijedor Verdict

25. June 2021.09:50
The Constitutional Court has rejected an appeal filed by Zoran Babic against his cumulative 35-year sentence for crimes committed in Prijedor, concluding that his right to a fair defence had not been violated.

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Zoran Babic (second row, right) in the courtroom during the trial. Photo: Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia’s top court has rejected an appeal filed by Zoran Babic in September 2019 with the Constitutional Court against a verdict passed down in May that year in which he said his right to a fair defence had been violated.

Under the verdict, the Appeals Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina sentenced him to 13 years in prison for a “crime against humanity”.

Previously, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina had sentenced Babic to 22 years for murders committed at Koricanske Stijene on Vlasic and 21 years for murders committed in the village of Carakovo, near Prijedor. He received a cumulative sentence of 35 years.

In this case, Babic, former member of the Interventions Squad of the Public Safety Station Prijedor, was tried together with Darko Mrdja and Radenko Marinovic for murders and other inhumane acts against the Bosniak population of Prijedor in 1992.

Mrdja received 15 years in prison. Taking into account the 17-year sentence pronounced by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, this court issued a cumulative sentence of 20 years.

The Appeals Chamber acquitted Marinovic of charges.

As stated in the Constitutional Court’s decision, in his appeal Babic wrote, among other things, that during the trial, one hearing was held in his absence, explaining that he failed to attend the hearing for medical reasons.

The Court said it could not accept this excuse as grounded, because the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina had provided detailed explanations why the continuation of the trial in his absence did not represent a violation of the Law on Criminal Proceedings of Bosnia and Herzegovina or a violation of his fundamental rights.

Babic also wrote that during the first-instance trial he requested exemption from the trial chamber because of suspected partiality, as the same members had ruled in a previous proceeding against him.

“He pointed out that the same first-instance chamber previously conducted a court proceeding against the appellant for the criminal offence of crime against humanity, when the appellant was sentenced to imprisonment, so they [the judges] had in front of them a defendant about whom they had previously formed a certain negative opinion, unlike the two other defendants whom the trial chamber had not known from before,” the decision recalled.

Under the Constitutional Court’s decision, the allegations made in the appeal did not bring the subjective impartiality of the court into question.

Deciding on Babic’s appeal, the Constitutional Court determined that his right to a fair trial had not been violated, “when the disputed verdicts are explained and clear, when the way the factual status and assessment of evidence were carried out does not give an impression of arbitrariness, when nothing indicates the violation of the right to a fair court and fair proceeding as a whole, and when the decision was not based on unlawful evidence, nor was the appellant deprived of the right to defence”.

The Constitutional Court’s decision is final and binding.

Lamija Grebo

This post is also available in: Bosnian