Ratko Bundalo was born on 30 September 1944 in Kriškovci, a village situated in the Laktaši province of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A Bosnian Serb, he was a colonel in the Serb Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina army (VRS).
According to the indictment, Ratko Bundalo was accused of crimes against the Bosnian civilian population in the Kalinovik Municipality in present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina. These crimes took place between April 1992 and March 1993 in the context of systematic and wide-spread attacks jointly led by the Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina Army (VRS), the police and paramilitary units. Ratko Bundaloand the co accused Neđo Zejaja and Dorđislav Aškraba allegedly committed murders, torture, rape and kidnapping of civilians. They were also suspected of having been involved in acts of mass destruction to public and private property, and inhuman acts against the Bosnian Muslim civilian population of Kalinovik.
At the beginning of May 1992, Ratko Bundalo was said to have participated in the capturing of 280 civilians fleeing from the VRS in Jeleč, a village in the Foča Municipality. Using force, the men had then been separated from the women and children, and detained in the Miladin Radojević primary school. Ratko Bundalo took part in transporting these detainees to a correctional institution where most of them disappeared, or were killed.
As commander of the Kalinovik Brigade, Ratko Bundalo also participated in planning and organizing operations in the Kalinovik camp of Baruini Magacin. The majority of the male Bosnian civilian population of Kalinovik and surrounding villages were illegally detained here. As commander of the camp between 7 July 1992 and 5 August 1992,Ratko Bundalo was directly involved in the atrocities committed against the camp detainees. The Bosnian civilians were detained in inhuman conditions, with no access to medical care and insufficient food. Some civilians were forced to the frontline, others were physically abused or killed.
Ratko Bundalo was arrested on 31 August 2007.
Ratko Bundalo was arrested on 31 August 2007. Suspected of crimes against humanity, the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina ordered his detention pending trial on 1 September 2007. On 28 November 2007, the State Court confirmed the indictment against him.
The Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina accused Ratko Bundalo of crimes against humanity under the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The indictment states that between April 1992 and March 1993, Ratko Bundalo and the co-accused, Neđo Zejaja and Đorđisjav Aškraba, shared the same plan and objective, thus forming a joint criminal enterprise. They allegedly ‘planned, ordered, committed, participated in, or incited to’ criminal acts against Bosnian Muslim civilians in the Municipality of Kalinovik and surrounding areas. Ratko Bundalo was suspected of having committed murders, and having tortured, raped, and kidnapped civilians, and of having been involved in acts of mass destruction to public and private property, and inhuman acts against the Bosnian Muslim civilian population of Kalinovik.
The indictment states that at the time of the crimes, Ratko Bundalo was a member of a Serbian paramilitary training camp in Bosnia. He was also said to have played an important role in his capacity as commander of Kalinovik’s tactical brigade. Ratko Bundalo was accused of crimes against humanity under Article 172(1) (h) of the Criminal Code.
On 13 December 2007 during a preliminary hearing, Ratko Bundalo appeared before the Bosnia and Herzegovina State Court judge of Section I for war crimes and pleaded not guilty to all charges brought against him. On 26 February 2008, the trial of Ratko Bundalo and the co-accused, Neđo Zejaja and Đorđisjav Aškraba commenced before the Bosnia and Herzegovina State Court in Sarajevo.
On 21 December 2009, Bundalo was sentenced to 19 years of prison.
Following the sentencing, Ratko Bundalo’s defence and the prosecutor filed an appeal. The appeal was partially upheld on 18 March 2011.
Bundalo was sentenced by second instance court to 22 years of prison, and found guilty of crimes against humanity.
Along with the co accused Nedo Zeljaja, he was found guilty of the capturing of approximately 500 civilians in the Jelec region and in the Municipalites of Foca and Gacko. They were also found guilty of detaining men at the Miladin Radojevic school, and of having exposed them to physical suffering and danger. According to the second instance court verdict, Bundalo and Zeljaja had set fire to a Bosnian village in the Kalinovik region, and exchanged women detained in the Miladin Radojevic school for Serbian soldiers deceased in the Jakomislje region.
Bundalo was also found guilty of active participation in the setting up and running of the Barutni Magacin detention camp, between July and August 1992. Some of the men detained there were killed, and 24 of them were burned to death. Only one survived.
The second instance sentence acquitted Bundalo of the charges concerning the setting up and running of the prison situated at the Miladin Radojevic school in Kalinovik.
Bundalo is currently serving his sentence in Sarajevo.
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 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.