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10 February 2015
News

Srecko Herceg Requests Release

Selma Učanbarlić BIRN BiH Sarajevo

Srecko Herceg’s defense has requested that he be acquitted of charges for crimes allegedly committed against Bosnian Serb civilians in Dretelj during the Bosnian war.

Herceg is on trial with Ivan Zelenika, Edib Buljubasic, Ivan Medic and Marina Grubisic-Fejzic, all former members of the Croatian Defence Forces (HOS), for their alleged participation in torturing detainees and forcing them to perform hard labour in Dretelj. At the time the alleged crimes took place, Herceg was the Croatian Defence Forces commander in Dretelj.

In his closing statement, defense attorney Drazen Zubak said that the state prosecutor had not proven that Herceg had been the prison commander in Dretelj, or that he had arrested, detained, or issued orders.

“I stand by my words, when I say that I am innocent, absolutely innocent before God and this court. The prosecution knows what war crimes are, but it should also know that prosecuting and sentencing an innocent person is also a crime,” said Herceg said. He said that he hoped the chamber would render a fair verdict, with no political pressure.

Defense attorney Zubak pointed out that the witnesses had not mentioned being mistreated by Herceg. Zubak said it could not be proven that Herceg was the prison commander, because such an institution did not exist at all.

“He was not in charge of prisoners and the conditions in Dretelj. On the other hand, a series of evidence has been presented proving that Herceg performed another function with the training center in Hardomilje at that time,” Zubak said.

Zubak said that Herceg could not be pronounced guilty on the basis of command responsibility, because the prosecution did not identify his accountability in relation to this case. He said that none of the witnesses confirmed that Herceg was present in Dretelj.

“Everybody calls me Srecko. That’s what they called me in 1992 as well. They call me Srecko before the court. The reports also contain that name, which means that somebody made the witnesses say that,” Herceg said.

Zubak reminded the court that Herceg had provided evidence that indicated he underwent medical treatment from May 11-June 1, 1992 and that he left the Croatian Defence Forces in August 1992. As a result Herceg could not have been physically present when Serbs were leaving Dretelj.

“The defense’s evidence implies that the Croatian Defence Forces was subordinated to the Bosnian authorities in the period covered by the indictment, and that it was for a unified country of Bosnia and Herzegovina that respected all of its citizens. This was a reason for conflict between HOS and the Croatian Defence Council,” Zubak said.

At the same hearing, defendant Edib Buljubasic began presenting his closing statement. Buljubasic stated that he did not arrest, detain, and deport Serbs to Dretelj and that he did not sexually abuse anyone.

“I did receive the Serbs, whom HOS members brought by truck on August 2. I also admitted two or three other groups of detainees,” he said. Buljubasic that the planned deportation of Serbs from the Herzegovina area did take place, but he had no particular role in it.

Buljubasic's closing statement will continue on February 24.

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