Crime in Štrpci – Families Without Justice for 24 Years
On February 27th, 2017, it will be 24 years since the crime in Štrpci (BiH), in which members of the Republic of Srpska Army (VRS) kidnapped and killed 20 passengers on a train travelling from Belgrade to Bar, among whom were 18 Bosniaks, one Croat and one foreign citizen of African or Arab origin, whose identity has not been established. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), Women in Black, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) and the Sandžak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms would like to remind the public of the responsibility which lies on the institutions of the Republic of Serbia for this crime, as well as of the fact that the victims’ families are still waiting for justice from the courts in Serbia and for the recognition of their status as family members of civilian victims of war.
The victims of this crime were: 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 only four victims have been found to date. The body of Halil Zupčević was discovered in late 2009 in the village of Sjedača on the bank of Lake Perućac, whilst the mortal remains of Rasim Ćorić, Jusuf Rastoder and Ilijaz Ličina were discovered at the same location in 2010. The search for the other bodies is still ongoing.
An investigation was initiated in December 2014 in cooperation with the Republic of Serbia Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) and the Bosnia and Herzegovina Prosecutor’s Office, against a number of persons suspected of having committed this crime. A trial has begun already in October 2015 before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the case of ten accused, including Luka Dragičević, the Commander of the VRS Višegrad Brigade, Boban Inđić, the Commander of the Višegrad Brigade Quick Reaction Company, and Gojko Lukić, brother of Milan Lukić. However, even though the OWCP raised an indictment against five persons in March 2015, it has not been confirmed to date.
Only Nebojša Ranisavljević has been finally convicted of the crime in Štrpci. It was established in the court proceedings conducted against him before the Higher Court in Bijelo Polje (Montenegro) that a group of soldiers from the Višegrad Brigade, which was under the leadership of Milan Lukić, forcibly stopped the train at the Štrpci railway station, where they took 20 passengers off the train, and transported them in a military truck to the premises of the elementary school in the town of Prelovo, located in the vicinity of Višegrad. After they had confiscated all of the prisoners’ valuables and beaten them, they tied them with a wire and took them to an abandoned house in the nearby village of Mušići, where Milan Lukić and Boban Inđić executed them. During this time, Nebojša Ranisavljević kept guard in front of the house. When one of the kidnapped passangers tried to escape, Ranisavljević wounded him and then Milan Lukić killed the prisoner. The International Criminal Tribunal convicted Milan Lukić and sentenced him to life imprisonment for crimes committed against the Višegrad Muslim population, but he has not been tried for the crime in Štrpci.
It was established during the trial of Ranisavljević, on the basis of the documentation of the “Beograd” Railway Company, that the kidnapping had been planned in advance and that representatives of the authorities of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were informed of the existence of this plan to kidnap Muslim passengers at the Štrpci railway station, but had not done anything to prevent the kidnapping from happening. The authorities that were informed of this included the FRY Ministry of Defence, the Yugoslav Army Užice Corps, which was under the command of Dragoljub Ojdanić at the time, and the State Security Agency.
The victims’ families, most of whom are citizens of Serbia, are facing a two-decades-long disregard by the state bodies responsible for the care of civilian victims of war (Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs); and due to the discriminatory legal framework in Serbia, they are not able to receive the status of family members of civilian victims of war and the symbolic benefits that this status provides.
The HLC, Women in Black, YIHR and the Sandžak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms will mark the 24th anniversary of the crime in Štrpci on Monday, February 27th, 2017 at 15:48 in front of the entrance to the Main Railway Station in Belgrade.