Radomir Radovan Susnjar

08.05.2016 ( Last modified: 01.08.2018 )
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

facts

Radomir Radovan Susnjar, known as Lalco, was born in 1955 in Bosnia Herzegovina. He worked as a delivery driver for a bakery in the city of Višegrad before the war started.

Susnjar is suspected of participating in what has been called the “live bonfire” (“Živa lomača”) the burning alive of 59 Bosniaks civilians, one of the massacre for which Milan Lukic, former leader of a Serb paramilitary group, the white eagle (Beli Orlovi), has been already tried and sentenced by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

On 14 June 1992, more than 60 persons, mostly women, elderly people and children, among which a two days old baby, were arrested and detained in a house on Pionirska Street in Višegrad. After being locked into one room, the building was set on fire and those who attempted to flee through the windows were shot. Only seven survived. Susnjar is suspected of personally locked up the victims in the house and set it on fire.

Susnjar is also suspected of being involved in the kidnapping of train passengers at Štrpci. On 27 February 1993, a train from Belgrade to Bar in Montenegro was stopped by Bosnian Serbs militaries and 18 Serb nationals, of which 17 were Muslims and one was Croat, were allegedly taken to Višegrad to be executed.

legal procedure

TRIAL International investigated the case since 2012, localised the suspect and informed Bosnian Herzegovinian and French authorities. On 4 April 2014, after months of investigation, Susnjar was arrested in France at the request of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was subsequently released and placed under court surveillance.

On 13 April 2016 the Appeals Court in Paris ruled in favour of extraditing Susnjar. He appealed the Appeal Court’s decision.

After his appeal was rejected in 2016, he appealed the decision before the French Supreme Court, which rejected it as well.

On 19 June 2017, the French authorities issued an extradition decree. Susnjar then seized the Council of State (the higher French administrative court).

On June 18, 2018, the Council of State confirmed the decree ordering Susnjar’s extradition. He was arrested by the Central Office for Combating Crimes Against Humanity, Genocide and War Crimes (Office central de lutte contre les crimes contre l’humanité, les génocides et les crimes de guerre) and extradited on 24 June 2018.

He pleaded not guilty before the Bosnian court that indicted him on 6 October 2017.

context

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.

Fact Sheet
Name: Radomir Radovan Susnjar
Nationality: Bosnia Herzegovina
Context: Former Yugoslavia
Charges: War crimes
Status: extradited to Bosnia Herzegovina ; pending trial
Judgement Place: Bosnia Herzegovina
Particulars: Suspected of participating in burning dozens of Bosniaks civilians alive in Višegrad in June 1992; Arrested in France on 4 April 2014, soon to be extradited to Bosnia Herzegovina, upon request of the country. He was extradited to Bosnia Herzegovina on 24 June 2018.