Four former Yugoslav Army reservists pleaded not guilty to abusing Croatian prisoners at the Morinj detention camp in Montenegro during wartime.
Former reservists Ivo Gojnic, Spiro Lucic, Boro Gligic and Ivo Menzalin all pleaded not guilty as their retrial started on Thursday at the Podgorica superior court.
They were sentenced to a total of 12 years’ imprisonment in January 2012, but the appeals court overturned the decision last July.
They are accused of having abused Croatian soldiers in 1991 and 1992, after the detainees were captured on the battlefield near Dubrovnik and brought to the Morinj camp, close to the Montenegrin coastal town of Kotor.
Their appeals are based on alleged inconsistencies and contradictions in witnesses’ statements and what their lawyers said was the incomprehensibility of the verdict.
The defence lawyer for Menzalin, who received the harshest sentence of 4 years in jail at the original trial, argued that in the period between October 3, 1991 and January 15, 1992, when Croatia was recognized as an independent state, the Yugoslav Army was not fighting against the Croatian army, but against Croat rebels.
The lawyer said that meant international humanitarian law was not applicable for the period during which his client allegedly committed crimes against prisoners of war.
According to the verdict, Menzalin was a camp cook who beat prisoners with a ladle, but his lawyer said that it was “incomprehensible that a war crime was committed with a ladle”.
Two other men were acquitted at the original trial.
The retrial is set to resume on March 19.