Reactions to Judgment in Skočić Case

The Higher Court in Belgrade trial chamber rendered a judgment on February 22nd, 2013 convicting members of the “Sima’s Chetniks” paramilitary group, because of war crimes against a civilian population, committed against a group of Roma in 1992 in the vicinity of Zvornik. Zoran Stojanović and Zoran Đurđević from Šabac were sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment each, Zoran Alić and Tomislav Gavrić were sentenced to ten years of imprisonment each, Dragana Đekić and Đorđe Šević were sentenced to five years of imprisonment each, and Damir Bogdanović was sentenced to two years of imprisonment. Zoran Alić was released from detention, but confined to his place of residence.

Zijo Ribić, who was eight years old when he survived execution by “Sima’s Chetniks” in the place called Hamzići (the village of Šestić, in the Municipality of Zvornik), when his father, his mother – who was then in late pregnancy – six sisters and a two-year-old brother were killed, stated that he was satisfied with the judgment when it was read out today.

“It made the greatest impression on me, after all  these years, when the Judge read out the names of all of them and said that they were found guilty. This means that justice has been served, and it was the most beautiful thing that I have ever heard”, Mr. Ribić stated after the judgment was read out.

“I was only surprised to hear that Damir Bogdanović was convicted to a sentence below the legal minimum and that Zoran Alić was released without any explanation”, Mr. Ribić did however also stress, apparently upset after the court proceedings lasting almost three years.

Marina Kljaić, an attorney at the Humanitarian Law Center and the legal representative of Zijo Ribić, said that it is hard to accept minimum sentences and sentences below the legal minimum for such grave crimes. “Seven children were killed in this case, and to kill children of certain ethnic groups points to the will to destroy that ethnic group”, Ms. Kljajić emphasized.

Sandra Orlović, the Executive Director of the Humanitarian Law Center, stated anent the judgment that the facts established in this case finalized the picture of horrific crimes committed by Serb forces at the very beginning of the war in BiH. “All of the convicted persons were volunteers who came from Serbia to fight in the war in BiH. We will also remember the beginning of this war for this aggressive expression of patriotism and the alleged concern for the Serbian people across the Drina River. The gruesome facts established during this trial show what it is that these people actually did over there, and what their real motives were for joining the war.”

On July 12th, 1992, armed members of “Sima’s Chetniks” entered the village of Skočić near Zvornik, where they first tore down the local mosque and then searched Roma houses, on which occasion they beat and abused the Roma people who were living in these houses. During the house search, Arif Nuhanović was killed and an unidentified member of “Sima’s Chetnicks” cut off Esad Aganović’s penis. On that day, members of the unit went with the injured parties to a pit in the place called Hamzići in the village of Šestić, where they killed 27 civilians, mostly women, children and the elderly, with knives and guns. Zijo Ribić, who was eight years old, sustained serious injuries, but fortunately he survived the execution and managed to escape from the pit. The three protected female witnesses in this case stated that they were kept by “Sima’s Chetniks” for three months as slaves, and that they were raped, beaten, humiliated, and forced to serve members of this unit.