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Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Goran and Zoran Damjanović

Court Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Section I for War Crimes, Panel of the Appellate Division, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Case number X-KRŽ-05/107
Decision title Verdict
Decision date 19 November 2007
Categories War crimes
Keywords torture, War Crimes against Civilians, weapons trafficking
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During the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, after the Serb Army overran a Bosniak settlement on 2 June 1992, two brothers took part in beating a group of approximately 20 to 30 Bosniak men. In first-instance, the Court convicted them of war crimes against civilians but the brothers appealed against this verdict. The defence had branded several witness testimonies to be inconsistent and contradictory, but the Court’s Appeal Panel held in second instance that the testimonies were consistent on the most important aspects. Discrepancies were explainable, according to the Appeal Panel, and to this extend the appeal was rejected. However, Goran Damjanović had also been convicted for illegal manufacturing and trade of weapons or explosive substances, and the Appeal Panel considered it unproven that the weapons found in his family’s home belonged to him. To that extend, the verdict was revoked and a re-trial ordered.

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Procedural history

On 2 June 2006, the Prosecutor filed an indictment, accusing Goran and Zoran Damjanović of war crimes against civilians as described in Art. 173(1)(c), in conjunction with Art. 180(1) of the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina (CC BiH). They were accused of having inflicted severe physical and mental pain on Bosniak civilian men after the Serb military forces had overrun a Bosniak settlement and their victims had surrendered. Goran Damjanović was further charged with illegal manufacturing and trade of weapons or explosive materials under Art. 399(1) and (2) of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Srpska, in conjunction with Art. 5 and 12 of the Law on the Trade in Explosive Substances and Inflammable Liquids and Gases of the Republic of Srpska and Art. 43(1)(1) of the Law on Weapons and Ammunition of the Republica Srpska. He was accused of having illegally kept a large quantity of fire arms and ammunition, possession of which is not at all allowed by citizens. The brothers pleaded not guilty to all charges against them. On 18 June 2007, both Zoran and Goran Damjanović were found guilty of all charges against them and convicted of, respectively, 10 years and 6 months; and 12 years of imprisonment.

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Related developments

On 28 April 2008, the Appellate Panel confirmed the Prosecutor’s decision to terminate the proceedings against Goran Damjanovićwith regard to the charges of illegal manufacturing and trade of weapons and explosives.

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Legally relevant facts

During the armed conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, from 1992 until 1995, Goran and Zoran Damjanović were members of the Army of the Serb Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. On 2 June 1992, Serb military forces captured 20 to 30 Bosniak men during the over-running of the settlement of Ahatovici. Some of them were injured and all of them surrendered. Both Goran and Zoran Damjanović, together with 50-100 other Serb soldiers and paramilitaries, took part in beating the prisoners with rifles, batons and bottles for a period of one to three hours. Also, a substantial amount of weapons and explosives were found at Goran Damjanović’s family house.

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Core legal questions

The Appeal Panel had to assess the grounds for appeal, which claimed that several criminal procedure provisions had been essentially violated and that facts the first-instance panel had erred in establishing the facts.

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Specific legal rules and provisions

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Court's holding and analysis

The Appellate Panel rejected most of the appeal grounds. Regarding the grounds of the alleged absence of reasons and lack of the assessment of contradictory evidence, the panel distinguished between the parts of the first-instance verdicts regarding the brothers’ responsibility of war crimes and Goran Damjanović’s responsibility for illegal manufacturing and trade of weapons or explosive substances.

Regarding the prior part of the first-instance verdict, the Appellate Panel held, contrary to the defence’s argument, that the reasoning of the first-instance verdict particularly assessed “the fact that there were certain inconsistencies in the statement of some of the witnesses who were examined” (p. 3). The Appellate Panel held that the panel had been justified in considering these inconsistencies as fairly minor discrepancies (p. 4).

Regarding the latter part of the first-instance verdict, the Appellate panel found that the verdict did not contain “any explanation as to on what basis it was established that it was exactly the accused who kept a large quantity of firearms, ammunition and explosives” (p. 4). The weapons were found at his family’s house and according to the Appellate Panel, more people had access to them (p. 4). Therefore, this part of the verdict was revoked.

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Further analysis

Burke-White wrote an article on the influence of the Yugoslavia Tribunal on the war crimes prosecution in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials

The Court provided case information. The website ‘Justice report’ reported on the trial.