Zvornik Verdict in accordance with Evidence
The Belgrade War Crimes Chamber reached and announced the verdict on 12 June 2008, finding defendants Dragan Slavković, Ivan Korać, and Siniša Filipović guilty of committing a war crime against the civilian population in the Municipality of Zvornik, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the period from April to July 1992 pursuant to Article 142 of the Criminal Code of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ). Slavković was sentenced to 15 years in prison; Korać to 13, and Filipović to 3 years in prison. Defendant Dragutin Dragićević was acquitted of all charges.
Serious crimes against Bosniak civilians were committed in the Zvornik municipality during the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina(BiH). More than a thousand people were killed, many were seriously injured, and a great number of people were detained in nine camps in the ZvornikMunicipality. Bosniak property was looted in Zvornik and near by villages on a massive scale.
Only one trial for the crimes committed in Zvornik, in the period from early April until late July 1992, was conducted before the Šabac District Court in 1994 against brothers Vojin and Dušan Vučković. This trial had all the characteristics of a staged trial; the Commander of theYellow Wasps, Vojin Vučković, was convicted only for illegal weapons possession and his brother Dušan Vučković received a prison sentence of only eight years for the murder of 20 Bosniaks, who had been detained in the Cultural Centre in the village of Čelopek on 28 June 1992.
War crimes committed in Zvornik in spring 1992 were investigated by the Hague Tribunal. In the investigation phase, the Hague Tribunal delivered a complete file with documents to the Republic of Serbia War Crimes Office of the Prosecutor. After investigation by the District Court, the Belgrade War Crimes Chamber filed charges against Branko Grujić, president of the Zvornik Provisional Government; Branko Pavlović, Commander of the Territorial Defence; and members of units under the command of the Zvornik Territorial Defence Dušan Vučković aka Repić, Dragan Slavković aka Toro, Ivan Korać aka Zoks, Siniša Filipović aka Lopov, and Dragutin Dragićević aka Bosanac for war crimes committed in Zvornik in the period from April to July 1992, including: deportation of Bosniaks from Kozluk and Skočić, murders and torture, inhumane treatment, and stealing the effects of Bosniaks detained in the camps in Čelopek at Ekonomija and Ciglana, as well as for the looting of abandoned Bosniak houses in Zvornik.
The indictment did not include the second gravest crime after the Srebrenica massacre committed during the war from 1991 until 1995 in the former Yugoslavia. Namely, in the village of Bijeli Potok, in the immediate vicinity of Zvornik, a large group of Bosniaks from 15 villages, including men, women, children, and elderly, was gathered on 2 July 1992. They were detained in the TechnicalHigh School in Karakaj (Zvornik industrial zone). All 700 of them were killed and their bodies were found after the war in mass graves on the Crni vrh mountain.
When the main hearing in the Zvornik indictment began, HLC initiated a new investigation into the murder of 700 Bosniaks detained in theTechnicalHigh School in Karakaj against Branko Grujić and Branko Popović. They are charged with the commission of this crime upon their command responsibility in the ZvornikMunicipality within the scope of their intention.
The investigation against Grujić and Popović for the murder of 700 Bosniaks was completed during the main hearing and consequently the Trial Chamber reached a decision nr. K.V. 5/05 on 26 May 2008 separating the trial of Grujić and Popović from the ongoing trial. After the decision to separate the trials was reached, the Prosecutor modified the indictment against defendants Slavković, Korać, Filipović, and Dragićević.
The verdict is the first just verdict for the crimes committed in Zvornik;
Persons convicted for the crimes committed in Zvornik were volunteers from Serbia who were organized to come to Zvornik. The Serbian Ministry of Interior knew about this and provided its support to the volunteers;
They were all convicted as immediate and direct perpetrators of acts, which represent elements of the act of a war crime;
The indictment did not include all persons responsible for certain crimes committed in Zvornik. For example, the camp in the Čelopek Cultural Centre, in which detained Bosniaks were killed and tortured, were guarded by police officers wearing fatigues and arms, but their commanders have not yet been indicted; Certain perpetrators of the most serious crimes in Zvornik, including Dušan Vučković Repić (died 10 days prior to the beginning of the trial), one known as Pufi (still unreachable for state authorities), another known as Pivarski (died in the war), could not be prosecuted for objective reasons;
Even though the defendants in this trial were immediate perpetrators and did not have any power, their responsibility is still enormous;
All defendants, who were found guilty, committed such grave crimes that the only just punishment for them was the highest punishment prescribed by the law – 20 years of imprisonment;
The court took into account mitigating circumstances on the part of the defendants, including their young age, family status, sickness, remorse, which should have impact in cases of regular crime, while they are inappropriate to apply to perpetrators of war crimes;
The trial chamber made efforts, during the two years and six months of the trial, to establish the material truth; the most important witnesses were victims who survived and eye-witnessed the crime. However, 15 years have passed since this crime was committed. Witnesses had been detained and kept in inhumane conditions, fearing for their lives, ordered to face the wall or look at the floor; some were even unconscious for some time. Therefore, it is understandable why their statements were not the same in every single detail;
The trial chamber properly and completely determined the factual background and provided conclusive reasons for accepting some of the statements and dismissing others;
The trial chamber could not amend the flaws of the indictment, such as the lack of evidence on the involvement of defendants Dragutin Dragićević and Siniša Filipović in the commission of the crime. Even though the acquittal of defendant Dragićević and the lenient sentencing of defendant Filipović did not satisfy the victims’ families, the trial chamber verdict was rendered in accordance with the evidence presented.