News 27 Dec 17

Female Bosnian Croat Fighter Jailed for War Crimes

Former Bosnian Croat fighter Azra Basic was sentenced to 14 years in prison taking part in the killings, torture and inhumane treatment of Serb civilians and prisoners of war in 1992.

Emina Dizdarevic
BIRN
Sarajevo
Azra Basic after her extradition from the US to Sarajevo in 2016. Photo: Bosnian prosecution.

The state court in Sarajevo on Wednesday convicted Azra Basic, a former member of the wartime Bosnian Croat force, the Croatian Defence Council, of crimes against civilians and prisoners of war in Derventa in 1992, and jailed her for 14 years.

She was found guilty of taking part in the killings, torture and inhumane treatment of Serb civilians and prisoners of war who were being held at the Yugoslav People’s Army Hall in Derventa and the nearby village of Polje from April to May 1992.

The court concluded that prosecution witnesses made it clear that Basic killed a civilian called Blagoja Djuras at the Yugoslav People’s Army Hall in Derventa.

Basic also ordered prisoners to remove their shoes and clothing, to eat money, to walk barefoot on glass and to lick blood off Djuras’s dead body, the court found.

“The chamber also concluded that Basic abused prisoner Mile Kuzmanovic based on the testimony he gave during the investigation, which was read out in court as the witness was unable to testify. This statement was corroborated by other statements,” said presiding judge Sead Djikic.

Basic was further found guilty of abusing two men called Boro and Petar Markovic in Polje in May 1992.

Judge Djikic said that Basic was acquitted of charges related to the abuse of three other men because their testimonies were not clear.

When determining the sentence, the court took into account as aggravating circumstances the number of crimes of which Basic was accused, their brutal nature and their consequences.

It took into account as mitigating circumstances the fact that she did not have any previous convictions.

Basic’s time spent in custody since she was extradited to Bosnia and Herzegovina from the US will count towards her sentence.

Croatian-born Basic left Bosnia and Herzegovina after the war and settled in the US, eventually becoming a naturalised citizen.

But she was arrested in the state of Kentucky in 2011 and prosecuted for immigration fraud after allegedly giving false information about her role in the Bosnian war when she arrived in the US.

She then waged a long battle against deportation, arguing that she took part only in ordinary military operations against Serb troops and did not commit any war crimes, and that she herself had been badly mistreated in a Serb prison camp.

However she was eventually extradited to Sarajevo from the US in November 2016.

The court told her victims to file compensation suits for damages.

The verdict can be appealed.

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