Bosnia Train Massacre Victims’ Families Lament ‘Lack of Justice’

27. February 2024.11:36
On the 31st anniversary of the abduction and execution of 20 non-Serb passengers seized from a train in Strpci in Bosnia during wartime, victims’ relatives expressed discontent about alleged perpetrators’ recent acquittals in Serbia.

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Railway station Štrpci. Photo: YIHR Serbia

Demir Licina, the son of Iljaz Licina, one of 20 people seized by Serb fighters from a train at Strpci station on February 27, 1993 and then killed, said on the anniversary of the crime on Tuesday that the trial in Serbia of some of the alleged perpetrators is being prolonged without reason.

“In this way, space is being made so that their lives will not last long enough to answer for what they have done,” said Licina, whose father’s remains were found in Lake Perucac in Bosnia in 2010.

“As for the legal aspect [of the retrial], after 30 years we can hardly talk about the presentation of some evidence that wasn’t brought in when it should have been, for the simple reason that the passage of time takes its toll [on witnesses and material evidence],” he added.

In October 2023, over four years after the trial in Serbia began, Belgrade Court of Appeals quashed the first-instance verdict convicting wartime Serb fighters Gojko Lukic, Dusko Vasiljevic, Jovan Lipovac and Dragana Djekic of participating in the kidnapping and executions of the train passengers.

In January this year, Belgrade Higher Court then postponed the start of the retrial.

The captives, mainly Bosniaks, were seized from the train at Strpci station and taken to a school in Prelovo, where they were physically assaulted. They were then taken to a burned-out house in the village of Musici, where they were executed.

The four defendants were initially convicted of participating in beating the captives in Prelovo and taking them to the house in Musici.

The indictment said that Lukic, Vasiljevic and Djekic were members of the Avengers, a Serb paramilitary unit led by Milan Lukic, Gojko Lukic’s brother. Lipovac, the other defendant in the trial, was a Bosnian Serb Army soldier at the time of the crime.

Bosnian human rights activist Bakira Hasecic, founder of the Association of Women Victims of War, wrote on Facebook on Monday that she has information that Lipovac has died in Belgrade, expressing dissatisfaction because the court proceedings were not completed earlier.

Belgrade Higher Court in Belgrade did not confirm the death of Lipovac by the time of publication.

Avengers paramilitary unit leader Milan Lukic is currently in prison in Estonia after the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia sentenced him to life imprisonment for other crimes during the Bosnian war, but not for the Strpci killings.

He was indicted for Strpci by the Bosnian state prosecution in 2019. The elementary school in Prelovo where the victims were robbed and beaten was the same one that Lukic himself attended as a child.

A BIRN analysis showed that, during the Belgrade trial, many of the defence witnesses tried to portray Lukic as being solely responsible for the Strpci crime.

Ten other wartime Bosnian Serb soldiers have already been convicted in Bosnia and in Montenegro of involvement in the crime.

The appeals chamber of the Bosnian state court in October 2023 confirmed the verdict that sentenced the former commander of the Interventions Company of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Visegrad Brigade, Boban Indjic, to 15 years in prison.

In October 2022, the Bosnian state court also found seven former soldiers from the Bosnian Serb Army’s Second Podrinje Brigade guilty of involvement in the abductions and murders. The judge in the trial said that Milan Lukic took part in the execution of 18 of the captured civilians.

A paramilitary volunteer from Serbia, Mico Jovicic, was sentenced to five years in prison by the Bosnian state court after making a plea bargain admitting his guilt in 2016.

Another paramilitary volunteer, Nebojsa Ranisavljevic, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the Strpci crime by the Montenegrin court.

Irvin Pekmez

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