Trial of Pašić fair, but the punishment is lenient and disproportionate to the crime

On July 8th, 2008, the War Crimes Trial Chamber of the Belgrade District Court presided by Justice Snežana Nikolić-Garotić handed down a decision sentencing Zdravko Pašić to 8 (eight) years in prison for war crimes committed against the civilian population. This case was transferred from the State Attorney’s Office of the Republic of Croatia to the Office of the War Crimes Trial Chamber of the Republic of Serbia.

Namely, Zdravko Pašić and his co-defendant Milan Grubješić were sentenced in absentia by the County Court in Karlovac, Croatia, for the same crime. Milan Grubješić is serving his 12-year prison sentence in Croatia.

The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) believes that the trial held before the War Crimes Trial Chamber of the Belgrade District Court was conducted fairly and professionally. It was efficient and dynamic. There were seven main hearings during which nine witnesses were heard. Thanks to a good cooperation with the Croatian judiciary, a number of witnesses from Croatia gave testimony. Three of them were protected witnesses and they gave their statements in camera. The Chamber admitted into evidence the statement of witness-victim Ana Krušić, the wife of the late Dr. Krušić, given before the County Court in Croatia because she was unable to attend the main hearing held before the War Crimes Trial Chamber of the Belgrade District Court.

Based on the evidence presented during the main hearings, the Court established that the accused Pašić, as a member of the police-force of the self-proclaimed Republic of Srpska Krajina, following a previous agreement with Milan Grubješić, killed Dr. Dragutin Krušić of Croatian nationality in the night between December 22nd and 23rd, 1991. They urged Dr. Krušić to come with them by telling him that a number of wounded Serbs in Cetinjgrad needed medical attention and on false premises made him leave the Health Center in Slunj and took him to the parking lot of the Suzi restaurant in Mali Vuković. As Dr. Krušić was walking towards the building, they shot him several times from a distance of a few meters. The accused Pašić fired at him from an automatic rifle and Grubješić fired from a 7,62 mm calibre handgun. The Court admitted into evidence the testimony of protected witness A, who adamantly claimed during the main hearing and during the face-off with the accused that the accused fired at the doctor. The witness claimed that he was at the scene and that he saw that the accused Pašić and Grubješić fired from their weapons at Dr. Krušić. The Trial Chamber did not believe the statement of witness Grubješić that he was the only one who fired at Dr. Krušić. The general impression was that Milan Grubješić, who is already serving his 12-year prison sentence in Croatia, gave a very unconvincing statement in an attempt to help the accused Pašić and release him of responsibility.

The accused Pašić failed to demonstrate remorse during the trial and instead remained determined to rule out his responsibility until the very end of the trial. The Trial Chamber observed that in committing the crime, the accused abused Dr. Krušić’s dedication to his profession and his medical ethics which prompted him to offer medical help to those in need regardless of their nationality. Among other aggravating circumstances noted by The Trial Chamber is the fact that the accused personally knew Dr. Krušić who was his parents’ physician.

When all circumstances and the way the crime was committed are taken into account, and when it is clear that the motive for the commission of the crime is national hatred, the punishment handed down in Pašić’s case is minimal. HLC believes that the Trial Chamber improperly considered mitigating circumstances for the accused Pašić stating that he was a war invalid, because that unjustly relativized and minimised the crime he committed.