Bosnia Drops Dobrovoljacka Street Crime Probe
BIRN – State Prosecution terminates investigation into 14 individuals suspected of involvement in Dobrovoljacka Street killings in May 1992 – but says investigation into the crime will continue.
Bosnia’s State Prosecution on Tuesday said it was discontinuing an investigation into Ejup Ganic, Hasan Efendic, Zaim Backovic, Jovan Divjak, Jusuf Pusina, Emin Svrakic, Dragan Vikic, Fikret Muslimovic, Dzevad Topic, Jovica Berovic, Resad Jusupovic, Jusuf Kecman, Damir Dolan and Ibrahim Hodzic.
It said prosecutors had determined that the suspects had not been involved in any criminal action.
“The decision to discontinue the investigation against the mentioned suspects, which has been made following an expansive investigation, is based on 352 witnesses’ statements and 412 pieces of material evidence, including documents, video recordings, intercepted conversations and other evidence material,” the announcement reads.
But the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina says the investigation into the killing of seven people and the wounding of another 14 persons in Dobrovoljacka Street, in May 1992, when a JNA convoy was pulling out of the city, will continue.
“The investigation related to those actions will be continued due to the existence of grounds for suspicion that a war crime was committed, because fire was opened at the victims, after they had been made unable to fight or while they were inside an ambulance,” the Prosecution announced.
As was stated in the announcement, the investigation has determined that, following their capture, some Yugoslav National Army, JNA, soldiers were taken from the convoy to the “FIS” building, the Central Prison and the Territorial Defence Headquarters where they were then abused and mistreated. The Prosecution said the investigation into those actions would be continued.
Besides the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the War Crimes Prosecution office of Serbia is conducting its own investigation into the Dobrovoljacka Street killings.
Ejup Ganic and Jovan Divjak were arrested under warrants issued by Serbia in Britain and Austria respectively on suspicion of having participated in the crime committed in Dobrovoljacka Street. The courts in those two countries later refused to extradite them to Serbia.
The latest decision may be the subject of an appeal to the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Following the State Prosecution’s announcement on Tuesday, several former suspects in the case have expressed their satisfaction with the decision, while officials from Bosnia’s predominantly Serb entity say they will continue to investigate the incident.
Former suspect Dzevad Topic, wartime commander of the Territorial Defense in Sarajevo, said the investigation should never have been conducted because the suspects were simply defending Sarajevo.
“The investigation should never have been carried out. We defended the city. We did not take part in any crimes, nor would we ever take part in them. I was never afraid of any probe, because I knew those men, and myself, were innocent,” Topic told BIRN Justice Report.
Ejup Ganic, a former member of the wartime Presidency of BiH who was also under investigation, said the happenings in Dobrovoljacka Street are a historic moment for Bosnia and Serbia.
“Some claim that was the moment Bosnia and Herzegovina was saved and the idea of a large Serbia was defeated. History will be the judge,” Ganic told BIRN Justice Report.
Mirsad Tokaca, the director of the Research and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo, said in a statement for BIRN Justice Report that the aim of the Dobrovoljacka investigation was to make sure to connect political figures with the killings, which he called a “classis manipulation”,
“You must look at Dobrovoljacka as a package. It was a legitimate military target, but crimes happened, and people were detained, abused and tortured. There were individual crimes and some persons should be probed. This investigation has been closed, because these people were not guilty, but there are smaller fish and certain crimes which must be investigated,” said Tokaca.
Meanwhile, in Bosnia’s Serb entity, Republika Srpska, officials have criticised the decision to drop the probe.
Stasa Kosarac, head of the Republika Srpska team for investigating war crimes, called the decision to stop the investigation an “absurd and defeating decision for Bosnia and Herzegovina”.
“Republika Srpska will continue to use all resources and manners to make sure all those who took part in war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina – against the Serb people and other peoples – are prosecuted and adequately punished,” Kosarac said.
Branko Todorovic, director of the Republika Srpska Helsinkee Committee for Human Rights, said he did not want to comment on the State Prosecution decision, but added he believes that families of the victims will be “frustrated” with the move.
“In any case it is not good for any crime in Bosnia to remain unresolved. Politics obstruct all investigations and this will be a cause for new tides of ethnic hatred, which will ensure the reconciliation process is slowed down,” added Todorovic.