Ten Years for the Execution of a Wounded Prisoner

On November 17, 2010 the War Crimes Trial Chamber of the High Court in Belgrade sentenced Darko Radivoj to 10 years in prison for war crimes committed against wounded prisoners of war in Tenja, Croatia.

In the explanation of the sentence the President of the Trial Chamber, Justice Rastko Popović, stated that the Court had considered the fact that the accused had no previous convictions and that he was the father of two children, also noting that the aggravating circumstances in this case was the fact that the accused had killed the wounded soldier solely because he was a Croat and due to the accused’s reaction after the crime, the clear comment: “Who cares about the Croatian mother f**ker!”

The Humanitarian Law Center points out again that it was not appropriate for the Trial Chamber to take into consideration the legal and family history of the accused when determining the length of the prison sentence in the conviction, especially in a situation where the accused had denied the commitment of the crimes throughout the entirety of the proceedings. The length of the prison sentence for this crime is approximately the same as the sentence handed down by the County Court in Osijek in 1998, when the accused was tried in absentia.

The trial began on May 6, 2010 and included five trial days, during which seven witnesses were heard. Four witnesses testified by means of video-link from the County Court of Osijek. The Trial Chamber established that the accused, as member of the police force operating under the command of the Territorial Defence of Tenja, on November 20, 1991 killed Marjan Pleteš, a member of the 130th Brigade of the Croatian Army who had been wounded and then captured. The accused Radivoj, together with Branko Stjepanović, also member of the police force, took Marjan Pleteš from the urgent care facility in Tenja in order to transport him to the command post in Bobota. During the trip, the accused Radivoj took Marjan Pleteš from the car near a cemetery in the village of Ćelije and fired at him from an automatic rifle, inflicting injuries to his head and body which ultimately caused the death of Marjan Pleteš.

In the explanation of the judgment, the Trial Chamber explained that they did not believe the accused when he stated that he had never seen Pleteš before. The Trial Chamber believed witness Branko Stjepanović, although the statements he had given during the investigation in 2003 and again 2009, and also in the main hearing in 2010, were different in many segments, but were identical with respect to decisive facts such about who killed Marjan Pleteš and when and where he died. The discrepancies in Stjepanović’s testimony reflected in the varying details are understandable, since it has been almost 20 years since the event and since the intervals in which Stjepanović testified as witness were rather spread apart.

The Military Court (Marshall Court) in Osijek sentenced the accused Radivoj to a prison sentence of 12 years for the criminal act of terrorism, as stipulated in Article 236 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Croatia. Following a decision of the County Court of Osijek handed down in 1998 based on the Law on General Amnesty, the processing of prison sentence enforcement was suspended. The Office of the State Prosecutor of the Republic of Croatia then transferred this case to the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor, based on an Agreement on the Prosecution of War Crimes Perpetrators, signed in 2006.