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Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Zdravko Božić et al.

Court Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Section I for War Crimes, Appellate Division, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Case number X-KRŽ-06/236
Decision title Verdict
Decision date 5 October 2009
  • Zdravko Božić
  • Mladen Blagojević
  • Željko Zarić
  • Zoran Živanović
  • Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Categories Crimes against humanity
Keywords crimes against humanity, Forcible transfer, illegal detention, inhumane acts, Murder, Srebrenica
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In this second-instance verdict, the Appellate Division upheld the first-instance verdict and found the accused Mladen Blagojević guilty of crimes against humanity. The Division sentenced him to seven years of  imprisonment. The other three accused, Zdravko Božić, Zoran Živanović and Željko Zarić, were acquitted.

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Procedural history

The Court confirmed the indictment on 21 December 2006. The accused Zdravko Božić failed to appear at a plea hearing held on 24 January 2007, at which the Court entered a plea of not guilty in accordance with the law. The trial commenced on 20 April 2007.

On 6 November 2008 the Court entered the first-instance verdict finding Mladen Blagojević guilty of crimes against humanity. The accused Zdravko Božić, Zoran Živanović and Željko Zarić were acquitted on all counts of the indictment.

More procedural information can be found here.

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Legally relevant facts

The accused Zdravko Božić, Mladen Blagojević, Željko Zarić and Zoran Živanović were members of the Military Police of the Bratunac Light Infantry Brigade of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS). In their official capacities, they were suspected of having planned, ordered, instigated and committed criminal offences against the Bosniak civilian population in the enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995, together with members of the VRS and the police of Republika Srpska.

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Core legal questions

The Appellate Division was asked to review the following points by the Prosecutor’s Office:

  1. Whether there has been an essential violation of the criminal procedure?
  2. Whether there has been a violation of the Criminal Code?
  3. Whether state of facts have been erroneously and incompletely established?
  4. Whether the decision on sentence was in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure?

In addition, the Defense Counsels for the accused asked the Appellate Division to review the first three points set out by the Prosecutor’s Office as well (p. 3).

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Specific legal rules and provisions

Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina:

  • Article 3 (principle of legality).
  • Article 4 (time constraints regarding applicability).
  • Article 29 (accomplices).
  • Article 39 (the purpose of punishment).
  • Article 42 (imprisonment).
  • Article 48 (general principles of meting out punishments).
  • Article 49 (reduction of punishment).
  • Article 172 (crimes against humanity).
  • Article 180(1) (individual criminal responsibility).

Criminal Procedure Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina:

  • Article 188(4) (costs of proceedings when the accused is found guilty).
  • Article 285 (guilty verdict).
  • Article 296 (grounds for appeal).
  • Article 297 essential violations of the criminal procedure provisions).
  • Article 298 (violations of the criminal code).
  • Article 299 (incorrectly or incompletely established facts).
  • Article 300 (decision on the sentence, the costs of the proceeding, the claim under property law and the announcement of the verdict).
  • Article 310(1) (decisions on the appeal).

European Convention on Human Right (ECHR):

  • Article 7(2) (no punishment without law).
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Court's holding and analysis

The Appellate Division dismissed the appeal as unfounded and upheld the first-instance verdict of 6 November 2008. In the first-instance verdict, the accused Mladen Blagojević was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment. Mladen Blagojević was found to have shot at the ‘Vuk Karadzic’ school building in Bratunac by using an anti-aircraft gun. The incident took place in July 1995 when male residents of Srebrenica and the surrounding villages were detained in the school building.

The other three accused, Zdravko Božić, Zoran Živanović and Željko Zarić, were acquitted. The Appellate Division found that the crimes at hand have undisputable occurred, but that the Prosecution has failed to prove their liability beyond reasonable doubt.

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials