HLC Press Statement In Relation to the (First Instance) Verdict of Defendant Aleksandar Medić

The War Crimes Chamber rendered a judgment on 28 January 2009 in the retrial of Aleksandar Medić for abetting the commission of criminal act of war crime against civilian population pursuant to Article 142 Section 1 in relation to Article 24 of the Criminal Code of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This criminal act was committed in July 1995 in Godinjske bare, a place located in the vicinity of Trnovo on the Treskavica Mountain.

Members of the Scorpions Unit killed six Muslim civilians, three of whom were minors. By this judgement, Aleksandar Medić was sentenced to five years of imprisonment. This judgement was rendered after a series of illegal, unlawful, and utterly unprofessional decisions of the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor, the District Court War Crimes Chamber, and the Serbian Supreme Court. On the basis of certain previous decisions made by judicial institutions mentioned herein, this decision, albeit appalling, still could be expected.

The criminal trial in the Scorpions case is highly specific in relation to all other cases prosecuted before Serbian courts in the previous several decades. There has not been a single case with so numerous, high quality, valid, and diverse evidence pointing to the commission of the criminal act and the perpetrators. First of all, there is VHS video-footage, which shows completely and without exceptions the entire event described in the indictment. The authenticity and genuineness of the video footage was confirmed by an electrical engineer, who appeared as an expert witness. The witness who taped the event entirely admitted everything shown in the footage. The guilty plea of one of the defendants absolutely and without exceptions confirms everything shown in the video footage, the expert-witness’s testimony, and the testimony of the witness who made the footage. Considering the situation with these facts, one would expect a very efficient and impartial trial and the judgement that are based on the law.

However, the trial was unnecessarily prolonged, details that were of no importance for the case were insisted upon, and the case resulted in a tragic judgement by which one of the accused was acquitted, one was sentenced to five years of imprisonment, one to 13 years of imprisonment, and only the Commander of the Scorpions Unit and his driver who participated in the execution were sentenced to maximum imprisonment sentences of 20 years. In the course of the proceedings, the prosecutor amended the indictment in a complete opposition to law, factual background, and court practice, thus charging the accused Aleksandar Medić with the criminal act of abetting the crime. The accused Aleksandar Medić was not different from the others in any way, by any word, gesture, or behaviour. He equally participated with the others in swearing, humiliating, offending, and torturing the prisoners. With others, he was a member of a homogenous, compact, and in every way unique group since they were all Commander’s bodyguards, who slept in the same house with him, were with him in the field and who followed him everywhere without any exception. It is simply not possible that some of the bodyguards knew about the Commander’s order and others did not. As far as the convict Aleksandar Medić is concerned, he should have been charged with the commission of the crime in complicity. It is really not important if he fired the rifle or not and there is a very convincing, precise, and clear practice of the Serbian Supreme Court in this regard. In the Case Stambolić, we have a situation that only one of the defendants fired a firearm and yet three more people were convicted for murder committed in complicity. We also have the CaseBudva where only one of the defendants shot at Vuk Drašković, yet three more persons were convicted as accomplices. In the CaseSjeverin, it was determined who kidnapped the passengers of Muslim ethnicity from the bus and it was determined that they were executed. However, what was not determined is who executed them and how. Regardless of this, the kidnappers were all convicted of murder as accomplices.

The Supreme Court of Serbia confirmed the acquittal of defendant Vukov Aleksandar even though there is evidence showing that he brought two of his soldiers and left them on the execution site and they participated in the execution. It was also determined that he designated the site where it is safe to organize an execution and a series of other circumstances that directly confirm his involvement in the commission of the crime. The Serbian Supreme Court also reduced the sentence of Medić Branislav from 20 to 15 years even though he participated in the execution and killed at least two prisoners. The verdict of Aleksandar Medić was reversed.

The new Trial Chamber before which the retrial of Aleksandar Medić was conducted was bound by the amended indictment by which Aleksandar Medić was charged with abetting the crime and such a qualification could not have been changed. However, bearing in mind the legal provision, which prescribe milder sentences for abetters only as a possibility, the court could have sentenced him to a much stricter sentence than five years of imprisonment, but it still decided to confirm the sentence from the first judgment.

The judicial epilogue in the Case Scorpions did not serve the law or justice or victims and it did not care about general prevention and the broader social context of the conviction for the act of war crime.

Point of Contact:
HLC Attorney Dragoljub Todorović
Phone: +381 (0) 64 4583 164