Twenty Years Since the Kidnapping in Štrpci – Perpetrators Not Punished, Victims Not Recognized

On Wednesday, February 27th, 2013, it will be 20 years since 19 citizens of Serbia and Montenegro were kidnapped by the Republic of Srpska Army (VRS) from the train station in Štrpci (BiH, Republic of Srpska). Only Nebojša Ranisavljević has been convicted of this crime so far. The institutions in Serbia have not yet recognized the victims of this crime as civilian war victims.

So far, the mortal remains of only three victims of this crime have been found: the body of Halil Zupčević was identified in 2009 in the village of Sjedača on the bank of Lake Perućac, while the mortal remains of Rasim Ćosić and Jusuf Rastoder were found in the same lake in 2010.

It was established in the trial of Nebojša Ranisavljević conducted before the Higher Court in Bijelo Polje, that a group of soldiers of the VRS Višegrad Corps, led by Milan Lukić, intercepted the Belgrade–Bar train in the afternoon of February 27th, 1993. After checking the passengers’ identification documents, they took 18 Muslims and one Croat out of the train and brought them to the village of Prelovo. They searched them, robbed them and beat them in the gym of the local elementary school. After this, they tied their hands with wire, put them inside a truck and took them to a village in the vicinity of Višegrad. Milan Lukić and Boban Inđić executed them in the garage of a house in this village, by ordering the victims to lie down and then shooting them. Nebojša Ranisavljević kept guard in front of the garage. When one of the kidnapped passengers tried to escape from the garage, Ranisavljević shot at him and wounded him. Milan Lukić approached the wounded man and cut his throat.

During the trial of Ranisavljević, it was established that the kidnapping was planned one month ahead and that the authorities of the Republic of Serbia were aware of the preparations for the kidnapping, but that no one undertook any measures to prevent this crime from happening. Besides Lukić, Inđić and Ranisavljević, some other VRS soldiers who were at the train station in Štrpci on this day, were also mentioned during the proceedings. However, none of them have been prosecuted so far.

The ICTY sentenced Milan Lukić to life imprisonment for the crimes committed against Muslims from Višegrad during 1992 and 1993, but not for the crime committed in Štrpci.

The victims of this crime are: Esad Kapetanović, Ilijaz Ličina, Fehim Bakija, Šećo Softić, Rifet Husović, Sead Đečević, Ismet Babačić, Halil Zupčević, Adem Alomerović, Rasim Ćorić, Fikret Memetović, Favzija Zeković, Nijazim Kajević, Muhedin Hanić, Safet Preljević, Džafer Topuzović, Jusuf Rastoder, Zvezdan Zuličić and Tomo Buzov.

The institutions of the Republic of Serbia do not recognize the victims of this crime as civilian war victims because the kidnapping happened on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the VRS was not considered an enemy force. The Humanitarian Law Center calls on the state authorities to amend the existing legal framework, the Law on Civilian Victims of War in particular, after 20 years neglecting the victims’ families and not recognizing the responsibility for the crime, and thus show a basic sense of responsibility and solidarity with the victims and their families.

Women in Black and the Humanitarian Law Center will mark the anniversary of the kidnapping in Štrpci in front of the entrance to the Belgrade Main Railway Station on February 27th, 2013 at 15:30.