A Belgrade court was urged to hand down a jail sentence to Osman Osmanovic, who is accused of war crimes against prisoners at a detention camp in Gornji Rahic in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Brcko area in 1992.

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Serbian Court Urged to Jail Bosnian Wartime Prison Camp Official

Belgrade Higher Court. Photo: BIRN.

Prosecutor Dusan Knezevic on Thursday asked Belgrade Higher Court to hand down a six-year prison sentence to Osman Osmanovic, who is accused of abusing civilians and prisoners of war at the Rasadnik camp in Gornji Rahic in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Brcko area during the summer of 1992.

Knezevic said he believes that “in this case it has been established that the defendant committed the crimes with which he is charged, and I propose that the court deliver a conviction”.

“The accused’s defence is unfounded, contrary to other evidence and calculated to avoid [incriminating] the culprit,” Knezevic told the court.

He added that Osmanovic, as a high-ranking officer at the prison, “was part of a system of organised torture of Serbs detained in the camp”

“I suggest that the court sentence him to six years in prison,” Knezevic said.

But defence lawyer Djordje Dozet challenged the testimony of one of the former prison camp inmates, Vasiljko Todic, claiming that although he was interrogated about his time in the Rasadnik camp in six cases in court in the Brcko District, he never mentioned Osmanovic until 2018, when a criminal complaint against Osmanovic was filed.

Dozet said that it was obvious that Todic went through physical and psychological torture at the prison camp, like others who were held there.

But he insisted that “Osman Osmanovic did nothing to contribute to their disaster”, and asked the court to acquit the defendant.

The indictment alleged that Osmanovic was a member of the Croatian Defence Council, and later of the Bosnian Army.

Osmanovic, a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been in custody since November 2019, when he was arrested on the border between Serbia and Bosnia. Sarajevo asked for his extradition but Serbia refused.

His trial in Belgrade started in June 2020, when he pleaded not guilty.

In the meantime, Serbia arrested another Bosnian citizen, Edin Vranj, a former senior Police Administration official in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Federation entity.

However, after sharp reactions from Bosnian officials and a meeting between the two countries’ prosecutors in Belgrade, Vranj was released from custody and the Serbian prosecutor’s office proposed that Bosnia take over his case.

Osmanovic’s lawyer criticised this decision, saying that his client’s case is similar and should also have been transferred to Bosnia.

“I must mention the Vranj case, where the prosecution proposes the transfer of the case [to Bosnia], proposes that detention be ended and the man released and not handed over to the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and my client to this day cannot exercise the right to have his detention commuted,” Dozet said.

The verdict will be delivered on March 18.

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