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3 May 2012
Analysis

Parallel Probes Fail to Solve Dobrovoljacka Street Mystery

Selma Ucanbarlic BIRN BiH Sarajevo
Two decades on from the attack that killed seven JNA soldiers, efforts to solve the case are in disarray, while Bosnian Serbs claim to be collecting fresh evidence.
Twenty years on since the fatal attack on a Yugoslav People’s Army, JNA, column in Dobrovoljacka Street in Sarajevo, State Prosecutors in both Bosnia in Serbia are still carrying out parallel investigations.

An investigation by the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the State Prosecution, concluded that seven persons were killed and 14 persons in the attack in 1992.

However, controversially, earlier this year the State Prosecution suspended its investigation into 14 persons.

These were Ejup Ganic, Hasan Efendic, Zaim Backovic, Jovan Divjak, Jusuf Pusina, Emin Svrakic, Dragan Vikic, Fikret Muslimovic, Dzevad Topic, Jovica Berovic, Resad Jusupovic, Jusuf Kecman, Damir Dolan and Ibrahim Hodzic.

Based on the statements of 352 witnesses and 412 pieces of material evidence, the State Prosecution said it had established that the “actions of the suspects did not contain elements of a criminal offence”.

Bogdana Tomovic, mother of Zdravko, who died aged 19 in the attack, is deeply dissatisfied by this decision and has lodged an appeal.  

Those named earlier as suspects in the case are also unsatisfied by the suspension, as they feel their named have not been cleared.

“Our state is simply not interested in solving the case, which could have been prosecuted long ago,” said Dzevad Topic, a former commander of the Regional Headquarters of the Military Police, one of the 14.

Unsolved crime:

The events in question occurred on May 3, 1992, when column of the JNA, retreating to barracks in nearby Lukavica, passed through Dobrovoljacka Street in downtown Sarajevo.

Alija Izetbegovic, then President of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who had been abducted a day earlier at Sarajevo airport by the JNA, was in the middle of the column in a transporter.

According to an agreement made previously, Izetbegovic was to be freed once the column had safely exited the city. However, the column was intersected and a number of soldiers were killed.

The interior ministry of the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska, says it is collecting fresh evidence of the crime in Dobrovoljacka Street that it will soon hand over to the State Prosecution.

And regardless of the decisions of Bosnia’s State Prosecution, the Serbian Prosecutor’s Office for War Crimes is still conducting its own investigation as well.

Bruno Vekaric, deputy chief prosecutor for war crimes in Serbia, describes the case as a “Pandora’s box, which can complicate already complex relationships in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
 
Serbia’s own investigation into the crime has already resulted in the arrests of Ejub Ganic, a former wartime member of Bosnia’ presidency, and Jovan Divjak, a former Bosnian army chief.

The two men were arrested in the UK and Austria respectively. But the courts in both countries refused to extradite them to Serbia and both have since returned to Bosnia. Ganic was arrested in London in March 2010 and Divjak a year later in Vienna.

At the same time, even after suspending the probe into the 14 named men, Bosnia’s State Prosecution is still in theory conducting an investigation into the crime.

Senka Nozica, attorney from Sarajevo, believes that the suspension of the investigation against the 14 persons has done “enormous damage to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“When the Prosecutor terminated the investigation it was shock for people, for families, for the Republike Srpska,” she recalled.

“And then, two days later, they said: ‘No, no. There was a crime here, but not by these persons, some other persons did it.

“This is ridiculous and unprofessional,” Nozica said.

No answer to appeal:

Zdravko Tomovic, who was in the column passing through Sarajevo on May 3, 1992, was shot dead while driving one of the vehicles.

His mother, Bogdana, is disappointed by the decision to suspend the investigation into 14 persons, but still hopes that those responsible will be prosecuted. Meanwhile she awaits an answer to her appeal.

The State Prosecutor’s Office says that any decisions on appeals will be made in accordance with the criminal code.

Topic, meanwhile, has received no information from the State Prosecution regarding the suspension of the probe, adding that he does not know why he was put on the list of suspects.  

Simo Tusevljak, from the Bosnian Serb interior ministry’s office for investigating war crimes, said that they are gathering evidence that they will sent to the State Prosecution

They believe that the State Prosecution failed to take account of all the evidence that was available.

“When we did an analysis of the Dobrovoljacka Street case, we saw that the prosecutor who was in charge did not take statements from all the members of the JNA who were on the spot then,” he said.

“This means that prosecutor did not conduct the investigation to the end before making the decision regarding suspension of the investigation.”

Until the Republika Srpska’s evidence is handed over, the State Prosecution says it is still investigating several people for the Dobrovoljacka Street crime.

But who it is investigating and why, they will not say.
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