Abduction at Štrpci – fifteen Years on

On Wednesday, 27 February, it will be 15 years since the kidnapping and killing of 18 Bosniaks and one Croat, all citizens of Serbia and Montenegro, who travelled on the Belgrade-Bar train. Only one perpetrator has been convicted of this crime. Families are still searching for the bodies of their closest family members.

A group of the Republic of Srpska Army soldiers under the command of Milan Lukić, a citizen of Serbia, kidnapped 19 people, 18 Bosniaks and one Croat, from the train nr. 671 at the Štrpci station on 27 February 1993. They took them to the village of Prelovo located near Višegrad. These people were placed against a wall in the elementary school gym where the soldiers searched and beat them. After this the soldiers tied their hands with wire, put them on a truck, and drove them to a village located in the direction of Višegrad. In the garage of one of the burnt houses, in the immediate vicinity of the Drina River bank, Milan Lukić and Boban Inđić executed all 19 persons.

The victims of this crime are: Esad Kapetanović, Ilijaz Ličina, Fehim Bakija, Šećo Softić, Rifet Husović, Sead Đečević, Ismet Babačić, Hail Zupčević, Adem Alomerović, Rasim Ćorić, Fikret Memetović, Favzija Zeković,  Nijazim Kajević, Muhedin Hanić, Safet Preljević, Džafer Topuzović, Jusuf Rastoder, Zvezdan Zuličić, and Tomo Buzov.

Only Nebojša Ranisavljević has been prosecuted and convicted for this crime, while the other perpetrators and commanders are still at large. Bijelo Polje Higher Court convicted Ranisavljević to 15 years in prison on 9 September 2002 and the Montenegrin Supreme Court confirmed this sentence in 2004. Numerous pieces of evidence proving that besides Nebojša Ranisavljević and Milan Lukić, Boban Inđić, Ranko Drekalo, and a Roma person by the name of Goran, also participated in the commission of this crime, were presented during the course of the trial. However, an investigation into the role of these people in the crime has not yet been conducted.

During the trial of Ranisavljević, the Belgrade Railroad Company provided the court with documentation proving that the highest state authorities of the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) knew that the kidnapping was going to take place even 30 days prior to the kidnapping and that they had not taken any measures to prevent it from happening. This fact speaks volumes about the responsibility of state authorities and their participation in this crime.

Milan Lukić was convicted in absentia on 29 September 2003 before the Belgrade District Court to a term of 20 years in prison for the kidnapping and killing of 16 Muslims from Sjeverin (Serbia). Today, he is awaiting the trial before The Hague Tribunal.

Human rights organizations from Serbia are demanding that a thorough investigation and trial of other perpetrators and commanders be conducted, that victims’ sufferings be publicly acknowledged by building monuments, truth-telling, and revealing the entire truth of the former authorities in this crime, and that everything be done in order to identify locations where the mortal remains of their closest family members are.

Each year, Human rights organizations and victims’ families mark the day the crime was committed against the travellers of train nr. 671. Serbian state authorities do not take part in this. For the first time this year the anniversary will be marked at the location where the kidnapping happened, at the Štrpci railway station. The memorial ceremony is scheduled to begin at 15:28, which is the exact time when the victims were taken from the train.

The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC),
Women in Black,
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM),
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia,
Center for Cultural Decontamination,
Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR).