Seven Serb fighters were convicted in their absence of one of the biggest wartime massacres of Croats in the village of Bacin in 1991 and sentenced to a total of 125 years in jail.
A court in the coastal city of Rijeka convicted the former Serb servicemen on Monday of what has become known as the ‘Bacin crime’ – the mass killings of Croats in the central Croatian village of Bacin on October 21, 1991.
The Rijeka county court heard that at least 75 Croatian civilians were arrested over three days starting on October 18 and then shot dead.
The men who ordered the killings, Milinko Janjetovic and Momcilo Kovacevic, together with two of those who carried out the murders, father and son Stevo and Veljko Radunovic, were sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Stevan Dodos, who also participated in the killings, was sentenced to 15 years because he didn’t have command authority.
Local Serb forces commander Branko Dmitrovic and local police commander Slobodan Borojevic were sentenced to 15 years for not preventing the crime or punishing the perpetrators afterwards.
The court decided that two others who had accused of being involved, Marin Krivosic and Katica Pekic, didn’t participate in the killings.
All of those charged, except Krivosic, were sentenced in absentia.
Judge Ika Saric said that more people were involved in the crime but their names are not known or they are already dead.
She said that “many more” people were killed than listed in the indictment, but it was impossible to exactly determine exactly how many, or to establish their identities.
Saric said that those considered most responsible were given the highest sentences possible because “old, immobile and sick civilians” were killed, although she added the punishment still “wasn’t enough”.
Saric also presided over the Rijeka county court trial which sentenced Croatian general Mirko Norac to 12 years in prison in 2003 – the first conviction of a high-ranking Croatian Army officer for war crimes.
The Rijeka county court took over the Bacin case after courts in Sisak and Karlovac failed to prosecute the case for almost 20 years.
The number of people murdered at Bacin is only exceeded by the wartime mass killings at Ovcara farm near Vukovar and the village of Skabrnja in Dalmatia.
About 260 Croat prisoners were killed at Ovcara on November 20, 1991, after Serb forces seized the city of Vukovar.
Two days earlier in Skabrnja, 88 Croat civilians were killed after Serb forces commanded by General Ratko Mladic entered the village.