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27 October 2015
News

Bosnian Croats’ Trial for Ljubuski Prisoner Abuse Opens

Denis Dzidic BIRN BiH Sarajevo
Seven men went on trial accused of abusing imprisoned Bosniaks in 1993 and 1994 as part of alleged attempts to create an ethnically pure Croat statelet in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Prosecutor Remzija Smailagic said in her opening statement to the court in Sarajevo on Tuesday that she will prove that defendants Ivica Kraljevic, Mate Jelcic, Slavko Skender, Stojan Odak, Vice Bebek, Vinko Radisic and Dragan Milos participated in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at creating an ethnically-cleansed Croat statelet called Herceg-Bosna.

“In this [case], we have three wardens of the military investigation prison in [the south-western town of] Ljubuski and four guards, who were there the whole time,” Smailagic told the court.

“They were not guarding and protecting some people. No, they were abusing, taking prisoners to facilities with poor conditions where there was water and mice; they were making already difficult conditions even harder,” she said.

Smailagic said that the defendants committed the crimes against the prisoners in order to fulfil a plan to create “clean Croatian territory”.

According to the indictment, Kraljevic, Jelcic and Skender were wardens of the military investigation prison, which was located in the police building in Ljubuski, in different periods from September 1993 until March 1994.

More than 100 Bosniaks from Mostar, Livno, Stolac, Jablanica, Maglaj, Zepce and other areas in Herzegovina were detained there.

Kraljevic, Jelcic and Skender are charged with holding detained civilians and prisoners of war in inhumane conditions, allowing their abuse, giving them inadequate amounts of food and taking them to do forced labour.

Former prison guards Odak, Bebek, Radisic and Milos are charged with participating in the prisoners’ abuse.

The case against another suspect, Nedeljko Matic, has been separated from the others because he is on the run, so a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Defence lawyers did not present opening statements, but some questioned the charges.

Lawyer Senka Nozica, who is representing Skender and Milos, said that the prosecution was adding unacceptable charges to the case by alleging a joint criminal enterprise.

“An indictment like this and the statement of the prosecutor is significant burden for this case and the defendants,” Nozica said.

The first two witnesses will testify on November 10.
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