News 16 Jun 15

Serb Paramilitaries Acquitted of Killing 28 Roma

A Belgrade court acquitted six former members of the ‘Sima’s Chetniks’ paramilitary group of killing 28 Roma civilians including children near the Bosnian town of Zvornik in 1992.

Ivana Nikolic, Milka Domanovic
Belgrade special court.

Belgrade special court on Tuesday cleared former paramilitaries Damir Bogdanovic, Djordje Sevic, Zoran Djurdjevic, Zoran Alic, Tomislav Gavric and Dragana Djekic of killing the 28 civilians, raping and torturing three women and destroying a mosque during the war.

Presiding judge Vinka Beraha Nikicevic said that although the court had “established without doubt” that the men were there when killings took place in July 1992, there was not enough evidence to convict them.

“They might have committed the crimes, but there is no reliable and undoubted evidence to support that,” she said.

One of the Roma victims was killed in the village of Skocic, then the other 27 were taken to the nearby village of Setic, where the paramilitaries killed them, threw their bodies into a pit and then set off a hand grenade.

The three Roma women were repeatedly raped while being held under house arrest in the nearby village of Malesic after the killings, between July and October 1992, the court established.

But the judge said that the testimonies of the protected witnesses who were raped were “contradictory, not precise and unclear”.

She also said that although Sima’s Chetniks destroyed the mosque in Skocic, the way it was carried out was not established.

In the initial verdict in February 2013, Zoran Stojanovic and Zoran Djurdjevic were sentenced to 20 years in jail, Tomislav Gavric and Zoran Alic to 10 years, Djordje Sevic and Dragana Djekic to five years and Damir Bogdanovic to two years, but the Belgrade’s appeals court sent the case for retrial in July 2014.

Stojanovic died before the 2014 appeal so his verdict was annulled.

Some of the witnesses during the trial claimed that Sima’s Chetniks acted under orders from the headquarters of the Serbian Radical Party.

But Vojislav Seselj, the head of the party, who is also on trial for alleged war crimes, has denied that he had any control over paramilitary units in Zvornik, accusing Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan, who died in a gangland shooting in 2000, of having command responsibility.

Both the prosecution and defence have the right to appeal against the verdict over the next 30 days.

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