Osman Osmanović sentenced to three and half years imprisonment
The Court of Appeals in Belgrade handed down a judgment on 26 January 2023, sentencing the citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Osman Osmanović with final end enforceable conviction of three and half years’ incarceration, because of inhuman treatment of an ethnic Serb civilian detained in the “Rasadnik” (Brčko, BiH), while in capacity of Brčko’s Public Security Station (SJB) inspector. The court extended Osmanović’s detention, in which he has been since arrest at the Sremska Rača border crossing in November 2019, and which is going to last until he is referred to serving his sentence. Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) deems that this case should have been transferred to the BiH judiciary from the very outset, in order to strengthen regional cooperation and trust in the BiH institutions.
Immediately after Osmanović was arrested, the BiH Public Prosecutor’s Office requested his extradition and case transfer from Serbia, given that Osmanović was a citizen of BiH and that the criminal offence had been perpetrated on the territory of that country, where the witnesses and injured parties also are. The request was rejected, so the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) issued an indictment against him on 21 February 2020, charging him with inhuman treatment of a member of the Republic of Srpska’s Army (VRS) and three Serb civilians who were captives in the “Rasadnik” detention camp, Gornji Rahić settlement, during May and June 1992.
Belgrade’s High Court brought a first-instance judgment on 18 February 2022, sentencing Osman Osmanović to five year’s imprisonment, because of his inhuman treatment of a VRS member and two Serb civilians detained in the “Rasadnik” camp when he was in the capacity of Brčko’s Public Security Station inspector. The court found that the defendant’s treatment of one civilian, which he was charged with by the indictment, did not constitute a criminal offence, so he was acquitted of that count of the indictment.
Belgrade’s Appellate Court found that the actions of the defendant undertaken to the detriment of a VRS member had not been proven sufficiently, and the treatment of one Serb civilian had not reached the threshold of cruel treatment to constitute inhuman treatment violating the norms of international humanitarian law. Along those lines, the court redressed the first-instance decision and released the defendant of that part of the indictment, declaring him guilty only on one of the four counts, following it with redressing the sentence and convicting him of incarceration up to three years and six months, which was slightly longer than the time he had spent in detention.
This is the second case enforceably closed in the way of the Appellate Court redressing the first-instance decisions by releasing the defendants of certain charges for executed actions and pronouncing sentences below the legal minimum, which nearly or completely covered the time spent in detention (see the “Husein Mujanović“ case).
Such a course of proceedings conducted in Serbia against BiH’s citizens does not contribute to reinforcement of regional cooperation or trust of victims in the Serbian institutions adjudicating these crimes.
Humanitarian Law Center finds it necessary, when regards citizens of BiH suspected of war crimes and arrested in Serbia, to establish the conduct applied to the Edin Vranjo case, also a BiH citizen arrested by the Serbian authorities in 2021 and extradited to the BiH judiciary, as a regular practice of domestic judiciary. All the sooner because when BiH’s Prosecutor’s Office issues an indictment against a Serbian citizen who is on the Serbian territory, it immediately transfers the case to the Serbian OWCP and the proceedings are further conducted in Serbia.
By transferring the prosecution of war crime suspects to the states whose nationals they are would be the best way to contribute to regional cooperation, but also the victims’ confidence of adequate investigation and punishment for the perpetrators.