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12 February 2015
News

Extension of Custody Requested for Nine Defendants Accused of Lokanj Massacre

Dragana Erjavec BIRN BiH Sarajevo
Bosnia’s state prosecution has requested that nine former Bosnian Serb fighters facing trial for the massacre of civilians remain in custody. Their defense team objected, requesting that the court end the custody period and establish prohibitive measures instead.
State prosecutor Dika Omerovic requested that the court grant a one month extension of custody for former Bosnian Serb fighters Goran Maksimovic, Ljiljan Mitrovic, Slavko Peric, Mile Vujevic, Vukasin Draskovic, Gojko Stevanovic, Cvjetko Popadic, Rajo Lazarevic and Mico Manojlovic.

All the defendants are charged with the massacre of 67 civilians in the village of Lokanj in 1992. The attack was part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Bosniak population in the municipality of Zvornik.

The indictment alleges that Maksimovic was the commander and Mitrovic was the deputy commander of the Interventions Unit at the public safety station in Ugljevik. Peric was the commander of the Lokanjska Company with the Zvornicka Brigade of the Army of Republika Srpska, while the other defendants were members of military forces in the Zvornik area.

Prosecutor Omerovic said that although the investigation had been completed and the indictment confirmed, there was still a risk that the defendants might influence witnesses and suspected accomplices.

“Eight witnesses have already requested protection measures in this case. I would like to mention that the main reason for filing the custody order motion is the fear that if released, the defendants will influence future statements by these witnesses, who are still willing to testify before this court honestly and without fear,” Omerovic said.

As per a previous decision by the court, custody measures for defendant Radivoje Djordjic were terminated in January due to his poor health. The court ordered Djordjic to abide by prohibitive measures, such as home detention, instead.

Dusko Tomic, Maksimovic's defense attorney said that the prosecution's motion to extend custody measures was “generalized and arbitrary.” According to Tomic, there were no concrete arguments confirming the suspicion that the defendants might influence witnesses.

“Extending custody measures for my client under these circumstances would represent discrimination and the violation of his basic human rights. I would like to mention that, in two other trials conducted before this court, generals indicted for genocide are defending themselves in liberty, so I don’t see any reason for keeping these men in custody any longer,” Tomic said.

Radivoje Lazarevic, Manojlovic’s defense attorney, said that the prosecution completed its investigation of the case and that as a result there was no reason to keep the defendants in custody any longer.

“The custody measures should be terminated once the indictment has been filed and confirmed. I think that all the defense teams agree about prohibitive measures. That would be the only fair decision for the defendants at the moment,” Lazarevic said.

The ten defendants were arrested in December 2014. All of them have been held in custody since, except Djordjic, who was placed under prohibitive measures.

The court will render a decision regarding the defendants’ custody extension at a later date.

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