Press Statement On the Occasion of Marking the 23rd Anniversary of the Crime in Štrpci

Press Statement On the Occasion of Marking the 23rd Anniversary of the Crime in Štrpci

Povodom 23. godišnjice zločina u ŠtrpcimaOn Saturday, February 27th, 2016, it will be 23 years since the commission of the crime in Štrpci, when members of the Republic of Srpska Army took 20 passengers, who were civilians and non-Serbs, from the train travelling from Belgrade to Bar at the Štrpci Railway Station, and subsequently killed them. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), Women in Black and the Sandžak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms take this opportunity to remind the public that the victims’ families are still waiting for judicial justice in Serbia and the recognition of the status of family members of civilian victims of war.

Only Nebojša Ranisavljević has been finally convicted [analysis of the trial available in Serbian] for the commission of this crime to date. In the proceedings conducted against him before the Higher Court in Bijelo Polje (Montenegro), it was established that a group of soldiers from the Višegrad Brigade, under the leadership of Milan Lukić, forcibly intercepted the train at the Štrpci Railway Station and took 18 Bosniak passengers, one Croat, and one more person whose identity has not yet been established, from the train; then they transported the victims by military truck to the premises of the Elementary School in the town of Prelovo near Višegrad. After confiscating all of the victims’ valuables and then beating them, they tied their hands with wire and took them to an abandoned house in the nearby village of Mušići, where they ordered them to lie down; following which, Milan Lukić and Boban Inđić executed them. During this time, Ranisavljević kept guard in front of the house, and wounded one of the kidnapped passengers who tried to escape. Milan Lukić cut the wounded passenger’s throat.

These are the names of the victims of this crime: Esad Kapetanović, Ilijaz Ličin, Fehim Bakija, Šećo Softić, Rifat Husović, Halil Zupčević, Senad Đečević, Jusuf Rastoder, Ismet Babačić, Tomo Buzov, Adem Alomerović, Muhedin Hanić, Safet Preljević, Džafer Topuzović, Rasim Ćorić, Fikret Memović, Fevzija Zeković, Nijazim Kajević, Zvjezdan Zuličić and one unidentified person.

The mortal remains of four victims have been found to date. The body of Halil Zupčević was found in late 2009 in the village of Sjedača on the banks of Lake Perućac, while the mortal remains of Rasim Ćorić, Jusuf Rastoder and Ilijaz Ličina were found in the same lake in 2010. The bodies of the other victims are still missing.

During the trial of Ranisavljević, and on the basis of the documents provided by the “Beogradˮ Railway Company, it was established that the kidnapping had been planned in advance and that representatives of state bodies in Serbia and FRY had been aware of the existence of the plan to kidnap Muslim passengers at the Štrpci Railway Station. The Railway Company informed the responsible authorities of the existence of this plan as soon as they had learned about it, but nothing was done to prevent the act of kidnapping. Among the authorities which were informed were the FRY Ministry of Defence, the VJ Užice Corps, which was at the time under the command of Dragoljub Ojdanić, and the State Security Agency.

Ten persons including, Luka Dragičević, the Commander of the Višegrad Brigade, Boban Inđić, the Commander of the Emergency Service Unit of the Višegrad Brigade, and Gojko Lukić, the brother of Milan Lukić, are pending trial for the commission of the crime in Štrpci before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

An investigation into this crime was opened in Serbia in December 2014 and  is still pending. The Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) filed an indictment in March 2015 charging five persons with the commission of the crime in Štrpci; however, the court has not yet confirmed this indictment, but instead, it has sent this indictment back to the OWCP for modification several times.

Victims’ families, most of whom are citizens of Serbia, have been forced to deal with the utter indifference of the state bodies responsible for the care of civilian victims of war for two decades now (the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veterans and Social Policy). Mothers, fathers, children, spouses, and other relatives of the victims of this crime, as well as of the crime committed in Sjeverin, are not able to obtain the status of family members of civilian victims of war, on account of the discriminatory legal framework in Serbia.

The victims and their associations, as well as the HLC and other civil society organizations, have been pointing to the existence of the inadequate legal solutions and their discriminatory enforcement. Despite some serious remarks sent in to the Ministry by various domestic and international stakeholders, the Ministry has sent the Bill on the Rights of War Veterans, Military Invalids, Civilian Invalids of War and Members of their Families [text of the Bill available in Serbian], which makes the existing position of all civilian victims of war in Serbia even more difficult, into the legislative process.