Repeated Examination of Bogujevci Sisters
The compensation lawsuit that the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) initiated in August 2008 against the Republic of Serbia on behalf of sisters Saranda, Jehona and Lirie Bogujevci, who were seriously injured in the war crime committed in Podujevo/Podujevë on March 28th, 1999 by members of the Scorpions unit, which is a reserve unit of the Serbian Ministry of Interior, continued before the Higher Court in Belgrade.
Sisters Bogujevci gave their statements for the first time in December 2008 before the First Municipal Court in Belgrade when they spoke about the crime they survived, about numerous surgeries that they had and the long-lasting treatment they had to go through. After the judicial reform was implemented in 2010, this case was transferred in the jurisdiction of the Higher Court in Belgrade and it was assigned to the court panel presided by Judge Anđelka Opačić. Despite the arguments presented by the HLC attorney that the previous statements given by the Bogujevci sisters were detailed, judge Opačić insisted on examining the sisters once more explaining that she “had some more questions to ask them”.
The judge asked Saranda, Jehona, and Lirie identical questions. She asked them since when and with whom they have been living in Great Britain, how old they were when they left Kosovo for Great Britain, when they learned about the criminal proceedings against the perpetrators of this war crime, if there were any obstacles preventing them from claiming damages before court earlier, when they decided to initiate the compensation lawsuit, and whether they claimed damages from the perpetrators or some other institution other than the court prior to the initiating of the lawsuit.
Saranda Bogujevci said that she has lived in Great Britain since September 1999 and that she lives there with her father, stepmother, and two brothers. She left for Great Britain when she was 14 years old. She learned about the criminal trial in 2008 when she gave the first statement before the court. She does not remember if there were any obstacles preventing her from initiating the compensation lawsuit because at the time she was interested in the criminal trial that was pending. She does not remember exactly when the compensation lawsuit began, but she knows that she did not claim damages from the perpetrators.
Jehona Bogujevci said that she was 11 years old when she went to Great Britain and that she remembers that she gave a statement before the court in 2008, but she does not remember if there were any obstacles preventing her from initiating the compensation lawsuit. Just like Saranda, she also did not claim damages from the perpetrators.
The youngest sister, Lirie Bogujevci, was 9 years old when she went to Great Britain. She does not remember exactly whether this was in October or November 1999 because she spent all of the time since March that year in hospital. She remembers that she gave the first statement before the court in 2008, but she does not know when the compensation lawsuit began.
Judge Opačić asked Saranda and Lirie an additional question and it was “How come they went to Great Britain exactly?”
Both sisters said that they went to Britain with the help of the British KFOR and doctors from Manchester because they sustained serious injuries and they were not able to receive a proper medical treatment in Kosovo.
Commentary of the monitor:
Judge Opačić examined the Bogujevci sisters in a humiliating manner, which is inappropriate for the court. The question why they went to live „in England exactly“ is not a legally relevant question.
Prior to the beginning of the session, Judge Anđelka Opačić attempted to exclude the presence of the public, but upon the objection filed by the HLC attorney she allowed the monitors (Lirie and Jehona Bogujevci’s brother, a BBC journalist Paresh Patel and an HLC employee) to attend the court session if they could find a place to sit.
Upon the opening of the court session, the judge warned the public that they are not allowed to disclose anything said in the courtroom to public media although it has no legal basis because Article 323 of Code of Civil Procedure does not oblige the public attending the hearing to keep as secret what has been said in the courtroom.