Acquittal in Case Against Samir Hondo

Acquittal in Case Against Samir Hondo

The Trial Chamber of the Higher Court in Belgrade rendered an acquittal on November 22nd, 2013, in the case of Samir Hondo, indicted for war crimes against the civilian population in the Čelebići Camp, near Konjic (Bosnia and Herzegovina). The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) stresses that the court rendered a correct ruling, because the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) failed to provide credible evidence during the trial which would have pointed to the responsibility of the accused for the crimes he had been charged with.

The indictment against Hondo presented by the war crimes Prosecutor Milan Petrović, was mainly based on the statement made by the alleged injured party Zoran Đorđić, a former detainee in Čelebići Camp. At the trial, Đorđić claimed that the accused beat him up on two occasions, together with other guards. Only one of the ten witnesses who were examined, namely Boro Mrkajić, a former detainee of Ćelebići Camp, partially confirmed the allegations made by Đorđić.

Seven former detainees, who, according to the allegations in the indictment were present when Hondo beat up Đorđić, were heard before the court, besides Đorđić and Mrkajić. None of them saw the accused participate in the beating of Zoran Đorđić or other prisoners. Three witnesses confirmed the allegations of Hondo’s Defense that Zoran Đorđić was raising false accusations against him because Hondo reported him for extorting money and that he had stated on a number of occasions that Hondo did not beat him up, but that he knew that his sister had money and that he would tell her that her brother had beaten up prisoners in order to get money from her. They also claimed that Đorđić had falsely presented himself as the representative of former prisoners in the United States and Canada and had collected money from people in BiH in this capacity. Two witnesses stated that they did not know the accused.

The Trial Chamber presided over by Judge Snežana Nikolić Garotić did not find the crown prosecution witness, injured party Đođić, credible, because he is currently standing trial in BiH for extortion. The Court also did not accept the statement made by witness Boro Mrkajića, assessing it as unreliable, since he was the only one of 17 victims who were present when Hondo allegedly beat up Đorđić, who said he actually saw Hondo do so.

Judge Garotić stated on the occasion of pronouncing the judgment that the court felt compassion for the victims, but that this did not represent a reason for rendering a guilty judgment in the case at hand.

There have been a number of proceedings held before the Tribunal in The Hague and before the BiH State Court for crimes committed in Čelebići Camp, during which a number of witnesses have been heard, none of whom accused Samir Hondo.

The characteristics of the proceedings and indictment against Hondo were as follows: the lack of evidence provided by the OWCP and the lack of credibility of the injured party who testified in this case. The filing of apparently unfounded indictments, as was the case with Samir Hondo and Marko Kashnjeti, leads to the conclusion that in some cases, motives and reasons that are not of a legal nature play the crucial role in the prosecution of war crimes in Serbia.

Factual Background

The OWCP filed an indictment against Samir Hondo on May 17th, 2013, charging him with the act of beating up with various objects a detained civilian when he was a prison guard in Čelebići Camp, and kicking him while wearing military boots on a number of occasions, thus inflicting a number of serious bodily injuries on him, and of participating in the torture of civilians, together with other prison guards, by closing them inside a sewage pit without enough air for approximately 24 hours.

The trial began on September 11th, 2013 and ended after nine days of trial. Ten witnesses were heard.

Samir Hondo was arrested on March 20th, 2013 at the Badovinci border crossing.