News 21 May 14

Ten Year Jail Term for Sijekovac Killings

The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina jailed Zemir Kovacevic for ten years for his role in the murder, mistreatment and robbery of Serb civilians in the Sijekovac area in March-April 1992.

Denis Dzidic

The Trial Chamber pronounced Kovacevic guilty on Wednesday. It said he killed two persons in Sijekovac on March 26, 1992 and treated other civilians who were taken from their homes after an attack on the village in an inhumane manner and participated in the the pillaging of Serbian houses in April.

Trial Chamber Chairman Davorin Jukic said that State Prosecution witnesses had testified “consistently and reliably” about the happenings in Sijekovac village and that Milja Zecevic and Sasa Milosevic saw Kovacevic killing Jovan and Petar Zecevic.

“Milja Zecevic clearly described that Kovacevic killed Jovan and Petar Zecevic. She said that Kovacevic grabbed her son Petar, who was mentally disabled, from her arms and killed him. He then kicked her husband, Jovan, on the behind and shot him in his forehead from a pistol. Witness Sasa Milosevic confirmed this description. The differences between those testimonies are extremely small,” said Jukic.

Kovacevic was found guilty of having mistreated two civilians in Sijekovac by putting a pistol on their foreheads after the murders.

Judge Jukic said it was determined that Kovacevic committed those crimes in his capacity as member of “an armed group”, which later became the Interventions Squad of the 101st Bosanski Brod Brigade with the Croatian Defence Council, HVO.

“The Defence denied that the war in Bosanski Brod began in late March 1992, but, after having analyzed the evidence, the Chamber determined that all elements of an armed conflict existed in that period of time," the judge said.

"However, considering that this was the very beginning of hostilities, the Chamber was has not been able to determine that Kovacevic was already a member of the Interventions Squad in March, but only a member of an armed group, which turned into the Interventions Squad of the 101st Bosanski Brod Brigade of the HVO later on,” Jukic added.

The verdict found Kovacevic guilty of having participated in the search and pillaging of homes owned by Serbs in April 1992, but acquitted him of having escorted civilians to locations where they performed forced labour in July and August that year.

Judge Jukic said that although Prosecution witnessed confirmed that they were taken to the front lines to dig trenches, they did not identify Kovacevic as one of the persons who took them to those locations.

“When determining the sentence, the Chamber considered the fact that Kovacevic has not been sentenced before, as well as the fact that he was a young person in 1992, as mitigating circumstances," the judge said.

"On the other hand, the grave consequences of the crimes, as well as his behaviour during the trial, including the fact that he was removed from the courtroom twice after having expressed his disapproval of what witnesses were saying, were considered aggravating circumstances,” Jukic added.

Kovacevic was sentenced to ten years in prison according to the Criminal Code of the former Yugoslavia. The time he has spent in custody, from October 2011 onwards, will be calculated in his sentence. Following the pronouncement of the verdict, a decision was made to extend custody for Kovacevic.

The parties have the right to appeal the verdict with the Appellate Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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