Jezik / Language:
17 March 2016

Soldier’s 12-Year Trial ‘Costing Bosnia €1.5 Million’

Albina Sorguc BIRN BiH Sarajevo
The war crime trial of former Bosnian Army serviceman Samir Bejtic, which has restarted four times and lasted over 12 years, could cost the state more than 1.5 million euros, his lawyer claimed.
Bejtic’s defence lawyer Fahrija Karkin told BIRN that the total trial cost might exceed 1.5 euros, taking into account all the costs incurred by the court over the 12-year period.

Karkin said that he had been Bejtic’s lawyer for 12 years, and that his costs alone exceeded 250,000 euros.

The trial restarted for the fourth time last month at the cantonal court in Sarajevo.

Bejtic, a former member of the Tenth Mountain Brigade of the Bosnian Army, is accused of having killed a man called Zoran Vucurevic in Kazani near Sarajevo on December 25, 1992.

“Bejtic’s trial has begun again. Witnesses are being examined now. It is particularly sad that the families of the dead, the people who were killed, are being re-examined. It means reopening old wounds,” Karkin said.

“This will last a very long time, because there are many witnesses. The prosecution insists that all the witnesses be re-examined orally,” he added.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina revoked the previous verdict under which Bejtic was acquitted of the charges and returned the case to the cantonal court in Sarajevo for a retrial.

Prior to that, Bejtic was sentenced to 14-and-a-half years in prison in 2006, and then acquitted of the charges twice, in 2008 and 2011. The Supreme Court revoked the cantonal court’s verdicts each time, blaming violations of the criminal process.

The cantonal court has not been able to specify how much Bejtic’s trial will cost.

Ilhana Tahmaz-Jamak, a spokesperson for the Supreme Court of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, explained the case against Bejtic had been returned to the cantonal court several times because he was tried according to the old Law on Criminal Proceedings of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The aforementioned law stipulates that a case has to be returned to the first instance court if the verdict is revoked due to substantial violation of the criminal proceedings provisions,” Tahmaz-Jamak said.

Legal expert and former judge Vehid Sehic said it was unacceptable for a trial to last for 12 years.

“The efficacy and cost-efficiency of each court proceeding should be taken into consideration. However, I am also among those who consider that justice can never be too expensive and that financial costs should not govern other things, as we don’t want a situation in which neither victims nor defendants get justice,” Sehic said.

The bodies of over 30 victims, mostly Serbs killed by Bosnian Army troops in 1992 and 1993, have been exhumed at Kazani, where they were dumped in a hole after their deaths.

But Bejtic is the only person charged to have been charged with committing a war crime there. Four other people have been sentenced to six years in prison each for committing murders at Kazani, while eight others were sentenced to 10 months each for failing to report a crime and its perpetrator.

Karkin said it was unfair that the other perpetrators were convicted of committing “ordinary murders”, while Bejtic was being prosecuted for committing a war crime. He also said the prosecution and defence had discussed a plea bargain, but had disagreed on the classification of the crime.

But Sehic said the murders committed at Kazani were “particularly sensitive” and so should be classified as a war crime.

“In my opinion there is no doubt this was a war crime. I don’t see why the act should not be classified as such,” Sehic said.

Bejtic was arrested in Germany 14 years ago and then extradited to Bosnia and Herzegovina. He then spent six years in detention prior to being released and allowed to defend himself while at liberty.
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