News 13 Feb 17

Croatian Police Official’s War Crimes Sentence Increased

Tomislav Mercep, a former Croatian interior ministry assistant and unofficial commander of a reservist police battalion, had his sentence for war crimes against civilians in 1991 increased to seven years.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Tomislav Mercep in court. Photo: Beta.

The Croatian Supreme Court handed down its final verdict on Monday convicting Tomislav Mercep, the 1990s assistant to interior minister Ivan Vekic and the unofficial commander of a reservist police battalion nicknamed the ‘Mercepovci’ (‘Mercep’s Men’), of committing war crimes.

The court has rejected all the claims made by Mercep and upheld the earlier conviction handed down by the Zagreb county court in May 2016 after a four-year trial.

The Supreme Court also increased his sentence to seven years in prison from five-and-a-half years.

Mercep was accused of not preventing the Mercepovci from detaining, torturing and killing several dozen mainly Serb civilians at the Zagreb Trade Fair, Kutina in central Croatia and Pakracka Poljana in western Slavonia in late 1991.

A total of 46 civilians were killed by the Mercepovci, three went missing and have not been found, and six were tortured but survived.

The presiding judge at Zagreb county court Zdravko Majerovic, said last year that Mercep did not stop the unit from committing the crimes, “giving them silent approval for the misdeeds”, even when he was not physically present at the crime scenes.

The victims included a Serb family, 12-year-old Aleksandra Zec and her two parents, who were killed by the unit in Zagreb in December 1991.

The unit’s crimes have been known to the public for almost two decades.

Anti-establishment weekly newspaper Feral Tribune first reported the crimes in Pakracka Poljana in 1997, when one of the members of the unit and alleged executors, Miro Bajramovic, spoke about the torture and killings he took part in.

The crimes committed at the Zagreb Trade Fair, as well as in Pakracka Poljana, were described in Pavilion 22, a documentary made by director Nenad Puhovski in 2002.

Although members of Mercep’s unit were arrested soon after the killings, they were released later due to procedural issues, although they admitted the crimes.

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