News 29 Mar 13

Sarajevo’s ‘Monster of Grbavica’ Jailed for 45 Years

Paramilitary Veselin Vlahovic, alias ‘Batko’, was given Bosnia’s longest-ever war crimes sentence for a campaign of murder, rape and robbery against Bosniaks and Croats in Sarajevo in 1992.

Justice Report
BIRN
Sarajevo
 Veselin Vladhovic I Photo by Bosnian state prosecutor

The Bosnian state court found Vlahovic guilty of 60 different crimes including more than 30 murders in the Kovacici, Vraca and Grbavica settlements of Sarajevo while he was serving with Bosnian Serb paramilitary units during wartime, and gave him the maximum possible sentence of 45 years.

“The acts were committed in a brutal manner and accompanied by cold and offensive behaviour, which is why he is known among victims as the ‘Monster of Grbavica’,” said trial chamber president Zoran Bozic.

Vlahovic, nicknamed ‘Batko’ (‘Uncle’), Vlahovic, who was a youth boxer and a bouncer at a famous Sarajevo club before the war, was convicted of killing around 35 people, raping 11 women, detaining people and robbing them between May and July 1992.

“The defendant had a characteristic model of behaviour, which was evident through his cold-bloodedness and heinousness, and he committed the crimes in the most horrific manner,” said Bozic. 

Bozic said that the testimonies given by Grbavica residents at the trial clearly identified the defandant as the perpetrator. “Witnesses said they saw Vlahovic with a beret and a flag with a skull,” he said by way of example.

The judge said that Vlahovic killed his victims in remote areas, and sometimes picked them out on the spur of the moment.

“Such victims are Haris Muderizovic and Goran Cengic who tried to protect their neighbours, but they sealed their own fate by doing so,” said Bozic.

According to the verdict, Vlahovic forced many Grbavica residents to give him money in order to spare their lives.

The most heinous sexual crime he committed, the judge said, was the rape of a woman who was seven months’ pregnant.

“Vlahovic twisted her arm while she was holding onto her under-age daughter, and raped her,” said Bozic.

He was acquitted on six counts however because defence witnesses placed him outside Sarajevo at the time of the crimes, the judge said.

Montenegro-born Vlahovic was arrested in Spain in March 2010 by police investigating a criminal gang, after previously escaping from a Montenegrin prison where he had been serving a sentence for robbery.

He was transferred to Bosnia in August that year and has been held in custody ever since.

He has the right to appeal.

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