News 09 Oct 17

Serbian Court Dismisses Strpci Train Massacre Charges

A Belgrade court dismissed charges against five Bosnian Serb ex-fighters accused of killing 20 passengers abducted from a train in Strpci in Bosnia in 1993, saying the indictments were incorrectly filed.

Filip Rudic
Strpci train station. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Belgrade Appeals Court on Friday dismissed the charges against five former Bosnian Serb Army troops for torturing and killing 20 non-Serb passengers seized from a train in Strpci, Bosnia in 1993, because the indictment was not filed by the authorised war crimes prosecutor.

The court said it threw out the charges because the war crimes prosecutor’s seat was vacant at the time they were filed.

It previously threw out war crimes charges for the same reason in the case against eight former policemen charged with a massacre of Bosniaks from Srebrenica in the village of Kravica in July 1995.

In that case, however, the new war crimes prosecutor Snezana Stanojkovic filed a motion to continue the trial, which was eventually accepted.

It remains unclear whether Stanojkovic will file a similar motion in the Strpci case.

The Serbian war crime prosecutor’s office issued indictments in March 2015 against Gojko Lukic, Ljubisa Vasiljevic, Dusko Vasiljevic, Jovan Lipovac and Dragana Djekic, all former members of the Bosnian Serb armed forces, for their involvement in the abductions and killings of the civilian victims.

The case remained in legal limbo for over two years, as the Higher Court repeatedly requested that the prosecutor’s office fix flaws in the charges against the ex-soldiers. The charges were finally confirmed in May this year.

Ten more former Bosnian Serb fighters who were also arrested at the same time in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina went on trial in Sarajevo for the Strpci crimes in October 2015.

On February 27, 1993 a group of fighters led by Milan Lukic, the chief of the ‘Avengers’ paramilitary unit, ordered the local station manager in Strpci to halt an express from Belgrade which was heading to the Montenegrin coastal town of Bar.

The fighters then forced 20 of them to get off the train. Most were Bosniaks who lived in Serbia or Montenegro. There was also one Croat who was travelling to Montenegro to visit his son, and another man who was never identified.

They were taken by truck to a school in the village of Prelovo near Visegrad, where they were robbed and beaten.

They were then taken onwards to the nearby village of Musici, where they were killed and their bodies thrown in the Drina River.

The remains of three of them have been found in Lake Perucac near Visegrad, while the other bodies are still missing.

Milan Lukic was sentenced by the Hague Tribunal to life imprisonment for wartime crimes in Visegrad, but not for the abductions in Strpci.

A court in Montenegro did however jail a former member of Lukic’s unit, Nebojsa Ranisavljevic, for 15 years over the Strpci case.

During his trial it was proved that there was an advance plan for the abductions and that the Serbian Railway Company had informed the Serbian interior ministry and the Yugoslav Army about the possibility of seizing the passengers.

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