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Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Slavko Šakić

Court Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Case number X-KR-05/41-1
Decision title Verdict
Decision date 29 October 2008
  • Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Slavko Šakić
Categories Torture, War crimes
Keywords Forced labour; former Yugoslavia; murder; rape; sexual violence; torture; war crimes against civilians; Akvarijum motel
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Slavko Šakić was born on 18 November 1972 in the village of Zlavast in the municipality of Bugojno, Bosnia and Herzegovina. In July 1993, he allegedly detained a number of Bosnian Muslims in the Akvarijum motel in Bugojno, taking their money and golden jewellery. Šakić was also suspected of having inflicted physically injuries on some of the detained civilians. On 5 September 2008, Šakić concluded an agreement with the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina according to which he admitted guilt for the alleged crimes.

On 29 October 2008, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina found Šakić guilty of war crimes against civilians and sentenced him to eight years and six months in prison.

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Procedural history

Slavko Šakić was held in custody since 20 May 2008.

On 25 July 2008, the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina issued an indictment against Šakić, charging him with participation in the crimes of murder, inhumane treatment, unlawful detention, torture, deprivation of liberty, and forced labour.

On 29 July 2008, the indictment was confirmed.

On 6 August 2008, Slavko Šakić pleaded not guilty.

On 5 September 2008, the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Šakić concluded a plea agreement. Under this plea agreement, Šakić pleaded guilty to all charges.

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Legally relevant facts

In mid-July 1993, Šakić and other members of the Garavi Special Purposes Unit of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), which was stationed in the village of Vrbanja in the municipality of Bugojno (Bosnia and Herzegovina), participated in the deprivation of liberty of Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) civilians residing in the wider region of Bugojno. The civilians were detained in the cellar and other premises of the Akvarijum motel in Bugojno. At the moment of arrest, they were searched and their money and golden jewellery were confiscated.

Moreover, on several occasions between 17 and 28 July 1993, Šakić and other members of the Garavi Special Purposes Unit participated in the torture of the detained civilians, and inflicted numerous bodily injuries on them. On 26 or 27 July 1993, several detained Bosniak civilians were abused and beaten by Šakić and other members of the Unit. On the same day, Šakićtook out one civilian from the premises of the Akvarijum motel, who was unaccounted for until he was found dead in August 1993 with multiple lethal injuries.

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Core legal questions

Was the admission of guilt of Šakić valid?

Was there sufficient evidence indicating that Šakić participated in the alleged war crimes against civilians?

Can Šakić be found guilty for war crimes against civilians?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

Geneva Convention (IV), 1949:

  • Article 3(1)(a) and (c) - Conflicts not of an international character

  • Article 51(1), (2), and (3) - Enlistment. Labour

Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2003:

  • Article 29 - Accomplices

  • Article 39 - The Purpose of Punishment

  • Article 48(1) - General Principles of Meting out Punishments

  • Article 56 - Credit for the Period Spent in Custody and Credit for Punishment under an Earlier Sentence

  • Article 173(1)(a), (c), (e), and (f) - War Crimes against Civilians

  • Article 180(1) - Individual Criminal Responsibility

Criminal Procedure Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2006:

  • Article 188(4) - Costs of Proceedings when the Accused is Found Guilty

  • Article 198(2) - Ruling on the Claims under Property Law

  • Article 231 - Plea Bargaining
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Court's holding and analysis

Having considered and accepted the plea agreement, the Court of BiH found Šakić guilty of war crimes against civilians and sentenced him to eight years and six months imprisonment.

The Court held that the Third Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War was applicable, and that Šakić violated basic guarantees provided for in this Convention (p. 3).

Furthermore, the Court held that the evidence provided to it, including documentary evidence and witness testimonies, implied that the war crimes against civilians of which Šakić was suspected were committed as part of the internal armed conflict between the army of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the HVO, in which Šakić took part as member of the HVO Special Purpose Unit (p. 6). As Šakić was engaged in the HVO military structure during the internal armed conflict, he was in the position to commit the war crimes against civilians as charged (p. 7).

In particular, the Court also held that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Šakić had direct intent and that he could be found guilty of unlawfully detaining civilians, confiscating property, pillaging, inhumane treatment, and torture (pp. 8-9).

Concluding, the Court held that Šakić, together with members of the Garavi Special Purposes Unit of the HVO, violated international humanitarian law, specifically Article 3(1) of the Third Geneva Convention by committing war crimes against civilians consisting of torture, unlawful detention, and forced labour (pp. 14-15). In addition, the Court found that based on the evidence provided, the actions of Šakić contained ‘elements of the criminal offense of War Crimes against Civilians, set forth under Article 173(1) a), c), e), and f), and that he is individually responsible for their perpetration, as set forth under Article 180(1) of the CC BiH, as read with Article 29 of the CC BiH’ (p. 15).

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials

Case Information - Šakić Slavko’, Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Bosnia News, ‘Bosnian State Court to Announce Verdict Against Croatian War Criminal Slavko Sakic Next Week’,, 27 September 2008.

Guilt Admission Deal in Bosnia War Crimes Court’, BalkanInsight, 29 September 2008.

‘Slavko Šakić osuđen na osam godina i šest mjeseci’, Klix, 29 September 2008.

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Social media links

‘Slavku Šakiću za zločine u Bugojnu osam i pol godina zatvora’, Index, 29 September 2008.