12 November 2010

Nine Years for Crimes Committed in Vitez

Ante Kovac, former member of the Croatian Defence Council, has been sentenced under a second instance verdict to nine years in prison for crimes against civilians in Vitez.

The Appellate Chamber of the State Court pronounced Kovac, the former Commander of the Military Police Squad with the Vitez Brigade of the Croatian Defence Council, HVO, guilty of participating in the unlawful detention of Bosniak civilians in the Public Accounting Services and the premises of the Radnicki University premises in Vitez in 1993 as well as the rape of protected witness A.
Under the second instance verdict, Kovac was acquitted of the charges for the rape of witness B in April 1993.
“This Chamber has determined that indictee Kovac committed the crimes with direct forethought, being fully aware of the fact that his actions were unlawful,” Appellate Chamber Chairman Hilmo Vucinic said.
The parties do not have the right to appeal the verdict.
In July 2009 a first instance verdict was pronounced and sentenced Kovac to 13 years in prison for having ordered other people to unlawfully detain civilians in Vitez and participated in the detention. He was also found guilty of raping witnesses A and B. The Appellate Chamber of the State Court revoked the verdict in April this year and ordered a retrial.
Explaining the second instance verdict, the Appellate Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina said it had been undoubtedly proved that Kovac “approved of and participated in the unlawful arrest of civilians”, but he did not have the authority to issue orders to other members of the Military Police Squad with the HVO's Vitez Brigade.
“Despite the fact that there is a number of pieces of material evidence proving the indictee's commanding role with the Brigade's Military Police Squad, the Chamber was not able to determine whether he had the power to issue arrest orders,” Vucinic said.
Under the second instance verdict Kovac was found guilty of having unlawfully detained protected witness A and Nedzija Pekmic in the Radnicki University premises in Vitez on August 21, 1993, as well as robbing them and raping witness A, a few days later.
“The Chamber determined that witness A's statement about the rape was consistent and it contained plenty of details about the act itself. The injured party presented, in a correct and clear manner, the way in which indictee Kovac behaved, how he hit her and insulted her. She remembered the music playing on radio at the time and all other things that happened simultaneously,” the Appellate Chamber Chairman explained.
By the second instance verdict Kovac was acquitted of the charges for having raped witness B, because, as stated by the Appellate Chamber, witness B's statement contained “inconsistencies”.
“After having analyzed the available evidence, we were not able to determine, beyond reasonable doubt, that the rape happened in the way described in the indictment. The injured party gave an unclear description of the event. There are inconsistent statements pertaining to the duration of the rape, the time she spent alone after the rape and whether the indictee hit her once or more times,” judge Vucinic said.
The Appellate Chamber said that, when making its decision about the sentence, it did not find any aggravating circumstances, while the facts that he was a family man, his health had deteriorated and he did not have a previous criminal record were taken into consideration as mitigating circumstances.
The second instance verdict extended Kovac's custody until he is sent to a prison to serve his sentence. He was also ordered to cover the trial costs “related to the convicting part of the verdict”.


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