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15 November 2013
News

Hearing of Testimonies at Retrial of Damjanovic Brothers

Amer Jahic BIRN BiH Sarajevo

The new trial of Goran Damjanovic and Zoran Damjanovic is due to begin on November 21, when the indictment will be read and introductory statements presented. At the same hearing the Court will begin hearing witnesses’ statements.

Although Goran and Zoran Damjanovic were sentenced, under a second instance verdict in 2007, to 11 and ten-and-a-half years in prison respectively for having committed crimes against the civilian population in the Sarajevo area, they will stand a new trial, because the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg and the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina determined that the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina was applied wrongly in this case.

At a pre-trial status conference Prosecutor Vesna Ilic said that the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina would not change the indictment, which charged the indictees according to the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Prosecution proposed that witnesses’ statements not be heard at the retrial, considering the fact that the criminal sanction was the only issue to be dealt with. However, the Defence teams had a different opinion about that.   

Senad Kreho, Defence attorney of Goran Damjanovic, proposed that statements given by witnesses before the first instance Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina be heard.

Enida Hadziomerovic, Chairwoman of the Trial Chamber, asked about the possibility for not hearing the testimonies in the courtroom, because the Chamber had already done that, but Fahrija Karkin, Defence attorney of the second indictee, said that evidence “has to be presented”.

The first instance trial against the Damjanovic brothers lasted nine months.   

At the end of the previous trial the Damjanovic brothers, former members of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, were pronounced guilty of having beaten between 20 and 30 Bosniak captives, in collaboration with other soldiers, on June 2, 1992. They were sentenced in accordance with the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The verdict says that the beating lasted between one and three hours. It further says that they beat the captives with rifles, sticks, legs and hands.

As he considered that the Criminal Code of the former Yugoslavia should have been applied in this case, given the fact that it was more favourable for the indictees, the Defence attorney of Goran Damjanovic filed an appeal with the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg, while the Defence of Zoran Damjanovic filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As they determined that shorter sentences could have been issued against them, those Courts decided that the Criminal Code of the former Yugoslavia should have been applied. The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina accepted their decisions and quashed the verdict.

The Trial Chamber asked the Prosecutor whether she would proceed with the count, charging Goran with illegal weapon possession. The Prosecutor responded by saying: “Those charges were transferred to the cantonal level, if I am not mistaken.”

Under the first instance verdict pronounced by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has now been quashed, Goran Damjanovic was acquitted of the charges for illegal possession of weapons, which were found during his arrest.  

After having spent more than six years in prison, the Damjanovic brothers were released to liberty following the decision rendered by the Strasbourg Court. 
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