An Acquittal in Teslić Case Confirmed

An Acquittal in Teslić Case Confirmed

#IzSudnice - Sajt  - 5On 15 December 2023[1], the Court of Appeal in Belgrade upheld the verdict of the Higher Court in Belgrade, which, in the absence of evidence, acquitted the accused Nebojša Mirović of committing the criminal offence of a war crime against civilians during the summer of 1992 in the territory of the municipality of Teslić (BiH). The Humanitarian Law Center believes that the Public Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor in this case failed to argue and substantiate the indictment it had presented.

By the indictment of the Public Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor, Nebojša Mirović was charged on 12 counts, that during the summer of 1992, in the area of Teslić municipality, he and several members of the Teslić police station participated in inflicting physical and mental pain or suffering (torture) and bodily injury on Bosniak civilians.

On 6 March 2023, the Higher Court in Belgrade issued a verdict by which, owing to lack of evidence, Mirović was acquitted of criminal responsibility. During the proceedings, the court found that the defendant was a member of the reserve police in Teslić, and that he had participated in the search of the village near Teslić in order to seize weapons from the non-Serb population. The court pointed out that the Prosecutor’s Office failed to cite the witnesses and injured parties for some counts of the indictment. For some of the injured parties listed in the indictment, there was no information on who these persons are, and their addresses were not known; nor were they previously questioned before a competent authority. In addition, the witnesses identified the defendant differently. Taking all of the above into account, the Trial Chamber concluded that the evidence presented during the proceedings was not clear and reliable enough to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had committed a criminal offence.

The Court of Appeal, referring to the same reasons as the first instance court, rejected as unfounded the appeal of the Prosecutor’s Office, and took the position that the Higher Court had decided correctly when it acquitted the defendant of criminal responsibility.

The fact that both the first-instance and the second-instance courts pronounced an acquittal owing to the failure to substantiate the indictment, indicates that the Prosecutor’s Office should have acted more carefully in this case and requested additional checks and evidence before raising charges. In this particular case, a criminal prosecution – i.e. a confirmed indictment from the District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Doboj, had been taken over from BiH. However, regional cooperation does not imply the uncritical automatic adoption of a case, but rather consideration of the proposed evidence, as well as the pursuit of the possibility of obtaining missing information. Taking over indictments without examining their quality in terms of the evidence offered, weakens confidence in the work of the Prosecutor’s Office.

With such an approach to the task in hand, only the illusion of work is created, because the number of indictments increases, but to no real effect. On the contrary, resources are used to conduct proceedings that result in an acquittal. The injured parties from BiH, who gave their consent for the case to be transferred to the judiciary of the Republic of Serbia, some of them even testifying before the court, now feel humiliated and deceived.

The HLC points out that in this way, instead of contributing to the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes by charging and proving indictments during the proceedings in a valid manner, the Public Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor increases the number of indictments in appearance only, and thus weakens and reduces efforts aimed at achieving real and substantial justice for victims and punishing those responsible for war crimes.

[1] The Court of Appeal issued a decision on 9 November 2023,