News 26 Jun 12

Guilty Verdicts For Crimes In Lovas

The Belgrade Special Court’s Trial Chamber found 14 former members of the Serbian military forces guilty of committing war crimes in the Croatian village of Lovas.

Marija Ristic

The presiding judge, Olivera Andjelkovic, said that the accused were guilty because in October and November 1991 they had violated international law by killing 40 Croatian civilians and inhumanely treating and torturing a number of other citizens of Lovas.

“The accused instigated and committed murder, took civilians out of their homes, murdered them, threw them into the canal, and forced other civilians to collect dead bodies in the village. Seventeen other people lost their lives as a human shield in the minefield,” said Andjelkovic.

Ljuban Devetak was sentenced to 20 years of prison, Milan Devcic to ten, Milan Radojcic to 13, and Zeljko Krnjajic to ten years.

Four former members of the Yugoslav People’s Army were sentenced too - Miodrag Dimitrijevic to ten years of prison, Darko Peric and Radovan Vlajkovic to five years each, and Radisav Josipovic to four years of prison.

Former members of the paramilitary group Dusan the Great, Jovan Dimitrijevic and Zoran Kosijer were sentenced to eight and nine years respectively, Sasa Stojanovic to 8 years, Petronije Stevanovic to 14 years, and Aleksandar Nikolaidis and Dragan Bacic to six years in prison.

Explaining her verdict for Devetak, Judge Andjelkovic said that as a leader of the military-civilian administration he bore the most responsibility for the crimes.

The judge also reminded the court that the witnesses had been exposed to numerous pressures during trial, resulting in many of them changing their statements. Two of the accused Nikolaidis and Krnjajic, as well as others, had also warned about such pressures.

Andjelkovic said that it was regrettable that the participation of the Yugoslav People’s Army in the crimes that had been carried out in this part of Croatia had not been proven.

The indictment from 2007 charges 14 persons with killing 22 civilians in their homes and yards during the attack on Lovas on October 10, 1991; and another 23 people who were killed in makeshift prisons by October 18 of the same year.

 Another 22 civilians were killed on October 18, 1991when they were forced to form a human shield and walk through a minefield. A further three civilians died in random acts of violence.

Deputy war crime prosecutor Bruno Vekaric said that the prosecution is satisfied with the verdict, given that the maximum sentence for a war crime is 20 years in prison, and will not appeal the verdict.

"This verdict is clearly a message of respect to victims, but it is also an apology to them for everything they had to go through in these parts in the unfortunate 1990s,” added Vekaric.

He congratulated the Trial Chamber for enduring all the pressures they were exposed to in the course of a four-year long trial.

The verdict may be appealed. The time period in which to lodge an appeal has been expanded from the usual 15 days to 30 days.



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