The Bosnian state court this week rejected an extradition request from Croatia regarding Vinko Martinovic, alias Stela, after his arrest on an international arrest warrant for committing murder in 1996.
Croatia lodged a request to remand Martinovic in custody, but Croatia’s extradition agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina only came into force in 2014. Martinovic’s lawyer, Nina Kisic, argued that since the alleged crime took place nearly 18 years prior, this case is not covered by the agreement.
“In this case, extradition is not permissible,” he insisted.
Bosnia’s court rejected Croatia’s temporary custody request on the same grounds, agreeing that the extradition agreement could not be applied retroactively. Instead, Bosnia has barred Martinovic from leaving the country, and has seized his travel documents.
Martinovic was arrested in Bosnia’s Mostar on 11 August. He was charged in Croatia of killing a Bosniak woman in 1996 after breaking into her house with his military unit, and was convicted in his absence after four retrials.
The court found that Martinovic, the commander of the so-called Convicts’ Battalion of the Croatian Defence Council during the Bosnian War, broke into Jasmina Djukic’s home in Mostar along with his unit and killed her.
“The owner, a Muslim woman, was killed so that they could get her apartment. The property was later sold,” alleges Croatian website Telegram.
“A completely innocent person was killed, Martinovic was the organiser of the entire operation, and he told the other participants what to do,” charged the court, “he really showed extreme brutality and callousness.”
Martinovic has long maintained his innocence, claiming he had been falsely accused to expedite his extradition to the International Criminal Court. He described the trial as a “terror of the Croatian authorities,” with his defence arguing that there was no evidence of guilt.
In 2016, Zagreb County Court sentenced Martinovic to seven years in prison. Four years later, Croatia’s Supreme Court increased his prison sentence to ten years in prison. Hours before the initial verdict was declared, however, Martinovic fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Martinovic was previously sentenced to 18 years in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for his participation in crimes of ethnic cleansing in Mostar in 1993. He was released in 2012, in line with the UN court’s rule that a convict may request release after serving two-thirds of their sentence.
“Permanent Premises of the International Criminal Court” by United Nations Photo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0