Velemir Djuric

08.05.2016 ( Last modified: 07.06.2016 )
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facts

Velemir Djuric was a member of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Intelligence Centre during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

During a widespread and systematic attack launched against the non-Serb civilian population of the municipality of Prijedor, in the Republika Srpska, Dragomir Soldat, a police officer in the 43rd Motorised Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army and the superior of Djuric, ordered on 23 July 1992 the killing of all men living in the village of Carakovo, in Prijedor.

Djuric, along with Zoran Babic, the Deputy Chief of the Public Security Center in Prijedor, and other men under Soldat’s command, carried out the order. They took ten Bosnian civilians residing in the village from their houses, escorted them to the local mosque, and shot them there. Then, they set the mosque on fire, thus killing the few wounded civilians who managed to survive to the shooting.

On 4 December 2012, upon the order of the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Djuric and Soldat were arrested in Prijedor, and remanded in custody, as they represented a high flight risk.

legal procedure

On 4 December 2012, upon the order of the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina,Velemir Djuric and Dragomir Soldat were arrested in Prijedor, and remanded in custody, as they represented a high flight risk.

On 11 January 2013, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed the indictment of Djuric and Soldat, along with Zoran Babic. All three of them are charged with the criminal offence of crimes against humanity pursuant to Article 172(1)(h)(a)(k) of the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina, all read in conjunction with Articles 29 and 180(1) of that same code.

The indictment alleges, among other things, that Djuric, in his capacity of member of the work unit, perpetrated, aided and abetted the persecution of non-Serb civilians by killing, and committing other inhumane acts with the intention of causing great suffering or serious bodily injury or mental harm. Moreover, the indictment stresses that such acts were performed in the framework of a widespread and systematic attack of the army and police of the Serb Republic against the non-Serb population on political, national, ethnic, cultural and religious grounds, with knowledge of such attack and that the acts would constitute an integral part thereof.

At the plea hearing of 11 February 2013, Djuric entered a not guilty plea.

The trial against Djuric, Soldat and Babic began on 21 March 2013. The Trial Panel of the Section I for War Crimes of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina handed down its verdict on 27 March 2014, finding the accused guilty and sentencing him to 21 years in prison. Babic and Soldat were also found guilty.

Both the Prosecution and the Defence filed an appeal. While the prosecutor advocated for a longer sentence, Djuric requested that the Appellate Chamber of the Court quash the first instance verdict on grounds of arbitrary assessment of evidence.

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: Velemir Djuric
Context: Former Yugoslavia
Charges: Crimes against humanity, Deprivation of life, Infringment of physical integrity
Status: Sentenced
Judgement Place: Bosnia Herzegovina
Particulars: Sentenced to 21 years in prison for crimes against humanity committed against the non-Serb population of Carakovo in July 1992; Verdict confirmed in appeal