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26 January 2009

Nikacevic: Ten Witnesses Deny Rape Allegations

Merima Husejnovic BIRN BiH Sarajevo
Witnesses deny former Foca policeman raped two women in 1992, saying he often risked his safety to help others. After the closing arguments, a verdict is due by early February 2009.
Over the past four months, the Defence of Miodrag Nikacevic, policeman from Foca, has examined its witnesses and presented material evidence, insisting the indictee did not commit the crimes with which he is charged.

To prove this, it examined ten witnesses who denied that Nikacevic participated in crimes in the Foca municipality in 1992.

The Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina says that Nikacevic, while a member of “Serbian forces”, robbed and raped one woman in April 1992 and another in Foca in July.

At the start of its evidence presentation in August 2008, the Defence examined the indictee who denied harming the two women, adding that they may have accused him with “some financial benefit” in mind.

“I think women victims of the war receive about 700 KM per month,” Nikacevic said.

Dragica Milutinovic, allegedly the former best friend of the first prosecution witness, insisted Nikacevic had not raped the woman, saying she had felt “protected” when the indictee was in the building.

“When I found out he had been arrested, my first thought was: ‘I shall call the first witness and ask her to rescue him’ because I know she had felt safe when he had been around,” she said.

“Nikacevc’s mother-in-law told me the first witness had accused him of rape. Then I managed to get in touch with her [But] she did not want to talk about it. She said she would speak to me once all this was over,” Milutinovic added.

Court expert Danilo Mihajlovic commented on the findings presented by prosecution expert Senadin Ljubovic, who spoke about the consequences of the rape for the two protected witnesses.

“Considering that we are talking about violence and rape, we need to see all gynecological reports,” he said. “Had I been given this task, I would have ordered a general medical examination of the injured parties and done an analysis of all medical documents.”

One of the two witnesses who claimed to have been raped by Nikacevic said that she had become pregnant as a result and undergone an abortion in Novi Pazar, south-west Serbia, performed by a “Dr Zatric”.

To test her allegations, the Defence wanted to examine the said doctor, Tahir Zatric, but he had declined to testify.

“He was very explicit in saying he did not want to become involved [and] wrote me a letter containing his explanation. We shall include it as evidence,” defence attorney Izet Bazdarevic said.

Nuradin Asceric, a gynecologist who ran a clinic in Novi Pazar in 1992, appeared as a witness but was not able to confirm anything concerning the alleged medical intervention.

Asceric said he had known Dr Zatric, adding that he had “let him use my technical capacities” but he did not know anything more about his practice.

This witness appeared before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina four times but had refused to testify until a legal representative was appointed to assist him. The court eventually appointed one.

The Prosecutionalso considers that Nikacevic, “acting together with two other members of Republika Srpska armed forces”, took one Rasim Klapuh from his house in Humsko village in August 1992 and handed him over to the Foca Correctional Facility, after which he was taken to an unknown place and killed.

Speaking of the incident, the indictee admitted taking Klapuh from Humsko in August 1992, “acting on an order”, and handing him over to the military police who took him to the Correctional Facility in Foca.

“I didn’tknow what happened to Klapuh afterwards. I was not authorized to enter the facility,” he said. “I wish I could have found out what had happened to him [but] there was nothing I could do. The police did not have any power at all. We were so small. The military did not like us helping people”.

Witness Zdravko Matovic, a former policeman from Foca, who was a duty police officer on the day Klapuh was taken away, said Nikacevic’s task was to take the man to Foca.

“When he informed them over a talkie-walkie that he had found the man, he was ordered to hand him over to the military police in Velecevo. He had to act in that way,”Matovic said.

Momo Cancar, former member of reserve police from Foca, said he and the indictee had been among six other police who participated in the abduction.

Cancar said that after concluding Klapuh had led a group of people in attacks on various Serbian villages “we received an order to capture and examine him. This was an ordinary thing and nothing more than that. Nikacevic handed him over to the Command in Velecevo.”

Ljuban Vukovic was present at the command in Velecevo in early August 1992 when Nikacevic brought Klapuh in.

“They came to the gate. Rasim said they had brought him for an examination. A few minutes later, Nikacevic went back to the town,” Vukovic told the Court.

Some Defence witnesses spoke about the indictee’s allegedly personality helpful. “I have never heard him say an offensive word to anybody,” Smail Hadzimusic, a former policeman who used to work with the indictee before the war, recalled.

Omer Bavcic, from Gorazde, told the Chamber that he would not have survived his six-month detention in the Foca Correctional Facility without Nikacevic’s help.

“He came and told me that he would help me stay alive. However, he said he did not know when I might go home… I survived thanks to him,” Bavcic said.

The indictee allegedly also saved the lives of Hamdija Guhdija and his family by “helping them hide from people who searched their apartments”. After that, he helped them leave Foca.

“He droveus to the railway station in Podgorica and stayed with us until our departure,” Guhdia said.

“My wife took a golden necklace from our child and gave it to him. He started crying. He said he did not have anything to give to us. Then he took his identity card out of his pocket, extracted his photo and gave that to us. I still carry it with me,” Guhdija said, displaying the photograph to the court at the request of the Defence.

Witness Jadran Djuderija recalled a similar act of kindness on the part of the accused. In April 1992, when he was 15, “two bearded men wearing Serbian hats” had came to his apartment to take him and his sister away.

After his mother ran to the doorway, screaming, “a police car appeared out of now here and blocked the road. Miodrag Nikacevic came out, pointed his gun at them and said: ‘Let them go or I will kill you’.”

Djuderija also told the Court that Nikacevic helped him leave Bosniain October 1992.

Testifying before the Court, the indictee said he had helped about 50 Bosniak families in the course of the war, risking his safety to do so. Nikacevic is presently at liberty, awaiting the presentation of the closing arguments and the verdict.

Merima Husejnovic is BIRN - Justice Report journalist. [email protected] Justice Report is BIRN online weekly publication.
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