Jezik / Language:
16 March 2010

Radic et al: Increased Sentences or Retrial

The Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina calls for an increase in the sentences handed down to the three indictees convicted of crimes committed in Vojno, near Mostar, while the Defence calls for the first instance verdict to be overturned and a retrial to be conducted.
"We consider the sentences pronounced against Marko Radic (25 years in prison), Dragan Sunjic (21 years) and Damir Brekalo (20 years) to be rather short, because we are talking about the unlawful detention, capture, abuse, murder and rape of 11 people," Prosecutor Jude Romano said, calling on the Court to sentence Radic to 30 years in prison and both Sunjic and Brekalo to 25 years.

The Prosecutor did not specify the requested sentence in the case of indictee Mirko Vracevic, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison by the first instance verdict. In its appeal, his Defence called for "the proceedings against him to be cancelled and the indictee to be referred to a competent social care institution".

By the first instance verdict, pronounced by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina in February 2009, the four indictees were found guilty of having participated in a joint criminal enterprise with the aim of prosecuting Bosniaks by causing severe bodily and mental injury, which resulted in the death of some of them.

The indictment alleges that Radic was Commander of the First Bijelo polje Battalion of the Croatian Defence Council, HVO, Sunjic was Deputy Commander of the prison in Vojno, Brekalo was a soldier and Vracevic was a guard in Vojno.

"Marko Radic was the Battalion Commander, responsible for the area in which women, children and men were detained. No detention or rape could have happened without him. The youngest victim was 15 years old. As per Marko Radic's orders, 22 children, including an eight-month old baby, were detained. The children were deprived of adequate food during the course of the detention. Some of them still suffer the consequences," Romano said.

He said Sunjic was "Deputy Commander of Vojno detention camp", and had authority to "improve the conditions, but he decided to join the persecution of the population". Speaking of Brekalo, he said he committed "most rapes in a brutal way, while drunk or drugged".

The Defence of Marko Radic appealed the first instance verdict on the basis of violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, violations of the Criminal Code and the pronounced sentence, and called on the Court to "revoke the verdict in full and order a retrial".

"The indictment does not have any standards or status, or anything that is regulated by local law. Alternative and cumulative allegations are strictly forbidden. One cannot say: 'If he did not do this, then he did that'. However, the Court accepted such an indictment," Dragan Barbaric, Defence attorney of indictee Radic, said.

Barbaric argued that the first instance verdict says the indictees were "members of a joint criminal enterprise and accomplices in the crime, despite the fact that the two are mutually exclusive".

Mithat Koco, Defence attorney of indictee Sunjic, said that in the first instance verdict the Trial Chamber "interpreted everything in a wrong manner", and he argued that the Prosecution did not prove the existence of a broad and systematic attack.

"More or less, everything is based on the existence of the attack. The only thing that happened was an attack conducted by the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina on June 30, 1993. The HVO defended itself, it did not conduct an attack. How can someone be a crime perpetrator if he defends himself from crime. There is no crime in that," Koco said.

The Defence of indictee Damir Brekalo said the indictee "was a common soldier", but that he did not "have anything to do with military operations". It was said that, if he did commit some actions, he could only commit them in the capacity of a civilian.

"Out of 48 Prosecution witnesses, 33 did not mention my client at all. How come that so many witnesses do not mention him, when he was notable by the function he performed," Defence attorney Slavko Asceric said.

The Defence of Mirko Vracevic mentioned the composition of the Trial Chamber, which rendered the verdict, saying "the composition was not proper", because one of its members was an international judge". It said this represented "an absolute violation of procedure".

The Appellate Chamber will render a decision concerning the appeals at a later stage.
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