Dragan Vikic, the wartime commander of a Bosnian interior ministry police unit in besieged Sarajevo, was acquitted of involvement in the killing of eight Yugoslav People’s Army prisoners in 1992.
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Dragan Vikic. Photo: BIRN/M. Ilcic.
The Bosnian state court on Thursday found Dragan Vikic and three co-defendants not guilty under a first-instance verdict of committing a war crime against prisoners of war who were killed in Veliki Park in Sarajevo in the early weeks of the siege of the city on April 22, 1992.
Vikic, in his capacity as commander of the Bosnian interior ministry’s police squad, and Jusuf Pusina, former assistant minister for uniformed police, were cleared of charges that they knew or could have known that their subordinates were about to commit the murders of eight Yugoslav People’s Army prisoners and that they failed to punish the perpetrators.
The other deendants, former police reservist unit members Nermin Uzunovic and Mladen Covcic, were acquitted of participating in the murders of the eight captured soldiers and of transporting their bodies to the Dariva neighbourhood, were they were set on fire.
Presiding judge Zoran Bozic said that the court found that the prosecution has not offered evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendants committed the crimes.
The eight Yugoslav People’s Army soldiers were captured when their vehicle malfunctioned and then taken to the police’s Public Security Station in the Novi Grad municipality, and then to police headquarters. They were then killed in Veliki Park.
“Undoubtedly, eight soldiers were deprived of their lives in Veliki Park, and the bodies of six of them have still not been found,” judge Bozic said.
The verdict said that the testimonies of witnesses who claimed that defendant Uzunovic was one of the people who shot the captives and drove the minivan with the bodies of the dead towards Dariva were unreliable.
No witnesses associated defendant Covcic with the incident, the verdict added.
Judge Bozic noted that prosecution and defence witnesses named two men as perpetrators of the murders, but the evidence showed they were not members of the squad commanded by Vikic, and neither were Uzunovic and Covcic.
The prosecution could not establish that Vikic had command responsibility for the crime, the judge said.
“The court has not been able to determine that Vikic knew or could have known that the soldiers were being brought to the police HQ,” Bozic said.
The court also found that the prosecution did not prove that Pusina, as assistant minister for uniformed police, was Vikic’s superior, or that he was informed about the killings in Veliki Park.
“The court has found that it was the minister, not the assistant minister, who was superior to Vikic,” Bozic said.
The verdict can be appealed.
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