Ostoja Markovic

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Ostoja Markovic, also known as Cole, was born on 26 April 1965 in Kotor Varos, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is a former member of the Kotor Varos Brigade of the Army of Republika Srpksa (VRS).

He is accused of having committed rape several times during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In one occasion, on 28 June 1992, Ostoja Markovic, together with his comrades in arms Bosiljko Markovic, Mirko Božić and Predrag Cicmanović, arrived in the village of Orahova, predominantly populated by Croats. At around 9 pm, the four soldiers reportedly seized a 14 years old girl from her house and forced her into a mini-van they had stolen some hours before. Then, while allegedly threatening the victim with a knife and a firearm in a mini-van, Ostoja Markovic, Bosiljko Markovic and Predrag Cicmanović alternately and repeatedly committed rape and sexual abused on her for around three hours.


Legal procedure

Ostoja Markovic was convicted for rape a first time on 25 October 2005, by the Basic Court in Banja Luka, which sentenced him to imprisonment for a term of 2 years and six months.

Criminal proceedings for the rape of a 14 years old girl in Orahova stalled for 20 years, despite the victim and her family had immediately filed a complaint with the Kotor Varos police department.

On 30 April 2014, under pressure of international NGOs, the Office of the Prosecutor in Sarajevo finally indicted Ostoja Markovic and Bosiljko Markovic for rape as war crime against civilians. Predrag Cicmanović, accused to have participated as well in the crime, was deceased by that time.

On 18 June 2014, both the accused pleaded not guilty. The trial started on 26 August 2014 before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Sarajevo.

The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina delivered its judgment on 24 June 2015, finding both the accused guilty of rape as a war crime and sentencing them to ten years’ imprisonment. Ostoja Markovic and Bosiljko Markovic were also condemned to jointly pay the amount of 26,500 Marks to the injured party, as compensation for non-material damage caused by the violation of her rights and freedoms, as well as her mental suffering.

The defence lawyers appealed the sentence. On 17 June 2016, the Appellate Division Panel of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina upheld the verdict, dismissing as ill-founded the appeals.

On 22 December 2016, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina commuted a final sentence of 12 years and 5 months for Ostoja Markovic, compounding the two convictions received by the defendant. However, on 13 March 2017, the Appellate Division Panel of the Court reversed the decision and fixed the final sentence to 11 years and 8 months, taking into consideration the time already spent in custody.



The Markovic case stands out as the first trial in which a Bosnian criminal court has redressed a victim of war crimes by deciding the criminal case instead of redirecting the injured part to civil procedures.




International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia

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 Jurisdictions

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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