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Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Radmilo Vuković aka Rade

Court Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Section I for War Crimes, Appellate Division, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Case number X-KRŽ-05/217
Decision title Verdict
Decision date 13 August 2008
  • Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Radmilo Vuković (aka Rade)
Categories War crimes
Keywords Former Yugoslavia; rape; sexual violence; war crimes against civilians
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Radmilo Vuković was born on 28 July 1952 in the village of Rataje located in the municipality of Foča, southeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. In his capacity as member of the military forces of the so-called Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as “Republika Srpska”, Vuković allegedly had sexual intercourse with a woman from the Foča municipality without her consent. On 13 August 2008, the Appeals Panel of the War Crimes section of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina did not find Vuković guilty, because the main piece of evidence provided by the victim and presented before the Appellate Panel contained inconsistencies. Therefore, it could not be established beyond reasonable doubt that Vuković raped the woman.

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Procedural history

On 12 October 2006, the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina issued an indictment against Radmilo Vuković.

On 13 October 2006, the indictment against Vuković was confirmed. He was charged with war crimes against civilians, in particular with the crime of rape (in violation of Article 173(1) of the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina (CC BiH)).

On 31 October 2006, Vuković pleaded not guilty. 

On 10 January 2007, the trial commenced.

On 14 February 2007, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Court of BiH) terminated the custody of Vuković. 

On 16 April 2007, the Trial Panel found Vuković guilty for war crimes against civilians and sentenced him to five years and six months imprisonment. Vuković and his defence counsel appealed against this decision.

On 7 May 2007, the Appellate Panel of Section I ordered custody for Vuković.    

On 31 August 2007, the Appellate Panel upheld the appeals filed, revoked the first-instance verdict, and ordered a re-trial. 

On 21 April 2008, the re-trial commenced before the Appellate Panel.

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Legally relevant facts

At the time of the alleged crime, there was an internal armed conflict between the military forces of the so-called Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as “Republika Srpska”, and the armed forces of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Vuković was a member of the military forces of the Republika Srpska.

Vukovićallegedly raped a woman in the municipality of Foča in southeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. The woman gave birth to a child after she was expelled from the area.

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Core legal questions

Was there sufficient evidence to establish the guilt of Vuković beyond a reasonable doubt?

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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 27(2) - Treatment I. General observations

Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 1950, Council of Europe:

  • Article 6(2) - Right to a fair trial (presumption of innocence)

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966:

  • Article 14(2) - Presumption of Innocence

Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2003:

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

Criminal Procedure Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2006:

  • Article 3(1) - Presumption of Innocence and In Dubio Pro Reo

  • Article 189(1) - Costs of Proceedings in Case the Proceedings are discontinued or a Verdict is Rendered Acquitting the Accused or Rejecting the Charges

  • Article 284(c) - Verdict Acquitting the Accused

  • Article 317 - Hearing Before the Panel of the Appellate Division
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Court's holding and analysis

On 13 August 2008, the Appellate Panel of Section I for War Crimes of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina acquitted Vuković of all charges.

In determining whether Vuković had intent and that his acts were connected to the armed conflict, the Appellate Panel analysed in depth the testimony of the allegedly raped woman because it was a key piece of evidence. The Appellate Panel found ‘a whole range of unacceptable inconsistencies and lack of logic in her description of the event’ (p. 5).

Furthermore, the Appellate Panel held that it ‘could not reliably conclude, excluding every reasonable doubt, that the accused had committed the criminal offense of War Crimes against Civilians committed by a rape’ (p. 9). In this regard, the Appellate Panel noted that ‘if it is not possible to remove doubts even after a lawful evaluation of evidence, individually and in conjunction with other evidence “a person shall be considered innocent of a crime until guilt has been established by a final verdict” according to the explicit legal provision under Article 3(1) of the BiH CPC.

The Appellate Panel applied the principle of in dubio pro reo (resolving a suspicion in the manner more favorable for the accused) and acquittedVuković (p. 10).

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Further analysis

National implementation of international humanitarian law - Biannual update on national legislation and case law July-December 2008’, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 91(873), March 2009, p. 191.  

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials

Case Information – Vuković Radmilo’, Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina.

‘Radmilo Vukovic’, TRIAL.

M. Fiori, 'The Foča "Rape Camps": A dark page read through the ICTY's jurisprudence', The Hague Justice Portal, 19 December 2007.

‘Presuda u slučaju Radmilo Vuković 13. augusta’, Klix, 11 August 2008.

‘Radmilo Vukovic Acquitted of Foca Rape’, BIRN Justice Report, 13 August 2008.