Stanko Vujanović Found Guilty for the Execution of Croatian Civilians in Vukovar

On November 1, 2010 the War Crimes Trial Department of the High Court in Belgrade sentenced Stanko Vujanović to nine years in prison for war crimes committed against the civilian population in Vukovar, Croatia.

In Justice Snežana Nikolić-Garotić’s explanation of the court decision she states that the Trial Chamber took into consideration some extenuating circumstances, such as the demeanour of the accused during the trial, his display of true sympathy for the suffering of those civilians held in the basement of the Sever family house, as well as the fact that the accused is the father of two children. Aggravating circumstances taken into consideration by the Trial Chamber include the fact that the accused executed two civilians. Because of the fact that the accused, Stanko Vujanović, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in the Ovčara Case in a judgment handed down September 14, 2010, the Trial Chamber sentenced the accused to only a unified sentence of 20 years in prison.

The Humanitarian Law Center believes that it is not appropriate to consider as extenuating circumstances issues such as the demeanour of the defendant or the defendant’s family status in determining the length of a prison sentence for war crimes committed against a civilian population. Although the accused is sentenced to a concurrent 20 years in prison, given the circumstances and the manner in which the crime was committed as well as the fact that the crime was motivated by national hatred, a prison sentence for the accused, Stanko Vujanović, of only nine years does not give any satisfaction to the families of the victims.

The trial began on May 20, 2010 and there were four main hearings in the case, during which four witnesses and one court-appointed expert were heard. Two witnesses testified by means of a video-link from the County Court in Vukovar. The Trial Chamber established that the accused, Vujanović, as a member of the Petrova Gora Territorial Defence (TO) Unit and under the command of the Sremsko-Mitrovačka Brigade of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA), conducted an operation to unblock JNA army-barracks in Vukovar in the afternoon hours of September 14, 1991. The accused, together with another unidentified man, both armed and wearing uniforms, entered the basement of the Sever family house at 32 Drugog Kongresa KPJ Street. Threatening the use of firearms, they took Ivan Sever and Adam Luketić out of the house. The accused ordered the unidentified man who was with him to stay in front of the basement door to prevent Blaženka Sever, Roža Luketić, and Marija Kotreba from leaving the basement. The accused took Ivan Sever and Adam Luketić to a garage in the basement of the house and executed them by firing a number of bullets at them. When Blaženka Sever heard the shots and tried to leave the basement, the unidentified armed man threw a hand grenade at the basement, which killed Roža Luketić and Marija Kotreba and seriously wounded Blaženka Sever.

The Trial Chamber believed victim-witness Blaženka Sever, who very clearly and convincingly testified that she recognized the accused, Stanko Vujanović, who at the time had longer hair, carried a gun in his hand, and wore a green single-colour uniform, as well as his voice, from when he ordered the unidentified man to prevent Blaženka Sever and the others from leaving the basement. Victim-witness Blaženka Sever testified that she had known the accused Vujanović ever since they were both children, that they lived in the same neighbourhood, and that she had even worked with his parents, claiming that she had no reason whatsoever to falsely accuse him. Victims-witness Blaženka Sever also stated that her husband, Ivan Sever, had weapons and occasionally went to the front line, that he was a member of the Croatian armed forces, but that in the particular situation in question he was hiding in the basement, unarmed, and dressed in civilian clothes, so that at the time he was killed he was not an active combatant.

Previously on September 14, 2010 the accused, Stanko Vujanović, was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a legally binding decision handed down by the Appellate Court of Belgrade for the commitment of war crimes against Croatian prisoners on the Ovčara agricultural farm, near Vukavar. Miroljub Vujović, Predrag Milojević, Đorđe Šošić, Miroslav Đanković, and Saša Radak were tried in the same proceeding and were also sentenced to 20 years in prison: Milan Vojnović and Ivan Atanasijević were sentenced to 15 years in prison; Jovica Perić was sentenced to 13 years in prison; Nada Kalaba was sentenced to 11 years in prison; Milan Lančužanin was sentenced to 6 (six) years in prison; and Predrag Dragović and Goran Mugoša were sentenced to 5 (five) years in prison.