Branimir Glavas

31.05.2016 ( Last modified: 09.06.2016 )
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Branimir Glavas was born on 23 September 1956 in Osijek, where he also studied law. After graduating, he took up a career in politics and in 1990 became one of the founding members of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). The same year, he was elected to the Croatian Parliament.

In 1991, around the time that Croatia was declared independent from the former Yugoslavia, tensions were on the rise between the new Croatian government and the Serb minority, which had both the political and military support of Belgrade. Towards the end of 1991 and the beginning of 1992, the town of Osijek, on the front line between the Zagreb forces and the rebel units of the Croatian Serbs, was witness to the murder of 37 Serb civilians. Until the present date, only ten of those guilty of these crimes have been identified.

Branimir Glavas, at the time, was looked on as one of the Croatian politicians the most committed to the Croatian cause. During the period of the alleged facts, he was Secretary of the Osijek Municipality Defence Secretariat as well as Chief of the Osijek defence forces.

Krunoslav Fehir, a former member of the unit which Glavas commanded during the war, accused the latter of having arrested and ill treated Serb civilians, and of ordering the killing of two of them.

On 31 August 1991, he was said to have taken Cedomir Vukovic and Djordje Petkovic to warehouses located very near to his office where they were reportedly beaten and tortured then forced to drink sulphuric acid. When Vuckovic tried to escape, Branimir Glavas reportedly ordered Krunoslav Fehir to shoot him. Following this, he then allegedly told him to eliminate the other prisoner remaining in the warehouse.


legal procedure

In July 2005, Krunoslav Fehir made the decision to inform the Zagreb Attorney-General about the events which took place on 31 August 1991. After an inquiry lasting more than 9 months, a criminal procedure was opened up on 5 April 2006 by the Croatian Chief Prosecutor against Branimir Glavas. On 25 April 2006, the Prosecutor, Mladen Bajic, sent an official inquiry report to the examining magistrate of the Zagreb district court and to Vladimir Seks (President of the Croatian Parliament) requesting permission to open up a criminal investigation against Glavas.

In May 2006, in order to be able to open up a formal criminal investigation against Glavas, the Croat Attorney-General requested the Croatian Parliament to lift his parliamentary immunity. On 10 May 2006, this request was granted. Glavas attempted to put up opposition to this investigation with an appeal to the Zagreb Appeals Court. This court rejected his request on 5 July 2006.

An official inquiry against Glavas was opened on 17 July 2006. The evidence on which the Glavas file was based was gathered by three groups of investigators: that of the Croatian National Police, that of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (which had opened up an inquiry against Glavas before deciding to defer the case to the Croatian judicial authorities in order to lighten its case load and terminate its activities before the end of 2008), and that of the Serbian Public Prosecutor. It was expected that some 45 witnesses for the prosecution in addition to those for the defence would be heard.

The State Prosecutor lodged repeated requests to have Glavas arrested during the period of the official investigations. In late October 2006, the investigating judge finally issued an arrest warrant. On 26 October 2006, Glavas, on his own accord, turned himself over to the judicial authorities.

Glavas denied having committed any war crimes, and held that the criminal investigation was motivated by purely political considerations, since its starting point coincided with his departure from the HDZ, the Croatian party in power in 2006.

A second investigation opened up against Glavas concerned the killing of six Serb civilians, whose bodies were then thrown into the river Drava.

On 2 December 2006, Glavas was released from custody pending trial, because the authorities concluded that as a result of his 37-day hunger strike his health had become seriously endangered. The investigating judge ruled at the time that Glavas was unfit to attend legal hearings.

On 8 February 2007, the case against Glavas was reopened, and on 16 April Glavas was indicted on war crimes charges by a Croatian district court. Following the indictment, he was again put in custody.

On 27 April 2007 Glavas again went on a hunger strike. He continued to deny any wrongdoing, claiming that he had only acted to defend his country against Serb assaults.

On 9 May a second indictment on war crimes charges was brought against him on charges of ordering the torture and killing of at least two Serb civilians

The trial against Glavas and his 6 co-accused began on 15 October 2007 before the county court in Osijek. He was liable for a prison term of between five and twenty years.

On 25 November 2007 Glavas was re-elected to parliament in the Croatian legislative elections

On 14 July 2008, the trial was adjourned until the end of September 2008 due to the bad health of Krnjack, one of the co-defendants. Since over two months had elapsed since the last hearing, this meant that under the law, a retrial became necessary.

On 8 May 2009, Glavas was found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Five other defendants were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 5 to 8 years.

Glavas had the benefit of parliamentary immunity and was not in court to hear the verdict. According to local media, he had fled to Bosnia, where he holds dual nationality, since Bosnian law does not permit extradition.

According to Croatian law, anyone sentenced to a prison term of 5 years and above must be put in preventative detention whilst awaiting the appeal trial.

On 13 May 2009, Glavas was arrested in the vicinity of Kupres, in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Justice Ministry of the Croatian Republic then filed a request with the Bosnian authorities for the extradition of Glavas but on 23 June 2009, the Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina rejected this request.

On 30 July 2010, the Supreme Court of Croatia confirmed the verdict but reduced the sentence of Glavas from ten to eight years. The Court said the verdict was “legally correct” but he should be sentenced for “one criminal act of war crimes against civilians” and not for two as he had initially been by a Zagreb court in 2009. “The number of victims of war crimes does not influence the number of criminal acts that a perpetrator makes,” it said. “So there were no legal grounds that the verdict of Glavas be divided into two separate criminal acts of war crimes against civilians,” added the Court.

On 28 September 2010 the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has upheld the Croatian verdict against Glavas and declared him guilty for the criminal act of war crimes against the civilian population.

On 29 November 2010, the Defence of Glavas called on the Appellate Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina to revoke the verdict against Glavas and order a retrial or pronounce a shorter sentence. The State Prosecution objected to the request.

On 12 January 2015, the Croatian constitutional court revoked the ruling convicting Glavas, and ordered new proceedings against him. The Court found that both the Supreme and County courts had used the wrong legal conventions in the cases against him. It also ordered the Supreme Court to check if his human rights and fundamental freedoms had been breached.

After the revoke of the judgement, Croatia’s Zagreb County Court issued a warrant for his arrest, ruling that another previous verdict in which he was convicted still remained valid. However, on 27 January 2015, the court revoked the arrest warrant.Glavas has been released from custody.




The conflict in former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 1999, shocked international public opinion because of the abuses revealed by the press, which were committed by all parties to the conflict (massacres, forced displacements of population, concentration camps …). The conflict is considered to consist of several separate conflicts, which were ethnic in nature – the war in Slovenia (1991), the war in Croatia (1991-1995), the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995) and the war Kosovo (1998-1999), which also involved the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

The conflicts accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia, when the constituent republics declared their independence. The wars mostly ended after peace accords were signed, and new republics were given full international recognition of their statehood.

In order to restore peace and security in the region, the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of UN Charter, created on 25 May 1993, by Resolution 827, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). It was determined that pursuant to numerous reports of, among other, mass killings, systematic detention, rapes, practice of “ethnic cleansing”, transfers, etc., these acts constituted a threat to international peace and security, necessitating a reaction by Security Council. As the Tribunal was created during the ongoing conflict, the Security Council expressed its hopes that ICTY would contribute to halting violations in the region. Its headquarters are in The Hague, Netherlands.

The Tribunal has jurisdiction to prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law – grave breaches of Geneva Conventions, violations of laws and customs of war, genocide and crimes against humanity – allegedly committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia after 1 January 1991, (no end date was specified). Since its creation, the ICTY has indicted more than 160 people, including heads of states and government members.

The Tribunal’s mandate was originally meant to expire on 31 December 2009, but the Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the Court with several judges, including permanent judges, so that the ongoing trials can be completed. According to the “ICTY Completion Strategy Report” from 18 May 2011, all trials were supposed to be completed by the end of 2012, and all the appeals by the end of 2015. The exceptions were cases of Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic.

The Security Council adopted resolution 1966 on 22 December 2010, establishing International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. The ICTY residual mechanism began functioning on 1 July 2013.

The Tribunal was called to finish its work by the end of 2014, in order to prepare closure and transfer of cases to the Residual Mechanism. The Mechanism is a small and temporary body, which plays important role in ensuring that the completion strategy of ICTY does not result in impunity of fugitives and in injustice. It is conducting all outstanding first instance trials, including those of Karadzic, Mladic and Hadzic. It is also to complete all appeals proceedings that were filed before 1 July 2013.

The ICTY is not the only court with jurisdiction to try alleged perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the former Yugoslavia. The Tribunal has concurrent jurisdiction with national courts. However, it takes precedence over them and may require the referral from the national court at any stage of the proceedings (Article 9 of the ICTY Statute). The Statute does not elaborate how the primacy is to be exercised, but it was asserted by the judges of the ICTY in the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. The primacy can be asserted in three cases: when an international crime is intentionally or unwittingly prosecuted before national court as an “ordinary criminal offence”, when a national court is unreliable, or when the case is closely related, or may be relevant to other cases being tried by the ICTY.


National courts also have jurisdiction to prosecute alleged perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law.

In the former Yugoslavia, the trials of those accused of war crimes have been opened by the courts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Section for War Crimes was set up in the Criminal and Appellate Divisions of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Special Chamber for War Crimes has jurisdiction to prosecute the most serious alleged war crimes committed in Bosnia, and was created to relieve the ICTY, so that it can focus on criminals of high rank. Its establishment was also considered necessary for effective war crimes prosecution in Bosnia. The opening of the Special Chamber was on 9 March 2005.

Additionally, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1244 from 10 June 1999, UN administration was created in Kosovo. Consequently, in 2000 “Regulation 64” Panels in Courts of Kosovo were created, which are mixed chambers at the local courts. They have two international judges and one national. These panels work in collaboration with the ICTY. They have jurisdiction over those responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. They focus on prosecuting lower ranking offenders.

In Serbia, the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor was established on 1 July 2003. It was created to detect and prosecute perpetrators of criminal offenses against humanity and international law, and offences recognised by the ICTY Statute, regardless of the nationality, citizenship, race or religion of the perpetrator and the victim, as long as the acts were committed on the territory of former Yugoslavia after 1 January 1991. Its seat is in Belgrade, Serbia.

Other relevant national jurisdictions are under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows states with a specific legal basis, to try perpetrators of serious crimes regardless of their nationality or that of the victims and regardless of where the crime was committed.


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