The Belgrade Higher Court found Bosnian Serb ex-policeman Milorad Jovanovic guilty of torturing prisoners during the Bosnian War. The verdict reaffirmed Jovanovic’s initial sentence passed after his first trial in February 2021, which the Belgrade Appeal Court later dismissed and ordered a retrial for.
According to the court, Jovanovic is guilty of torturing prisoners who were non-Serbs civilians; one of the prisoners died as a result of the torture. The crime occurred while they were being detained at the Simo Miljus Memorial Museum in the Sanski Most area of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992.
Judge Vinka Beraha Nikicevic said the court had factored in that it could not question all the relevant witnesses. This is because many of them have died, while others have relocated to Germany or Switzerland and could not be located.
“They were called to testify directly or via a video conference, but this was not possible,” Nikicevic said, ““Even without their presence [as witnesses], we had witnesses who testified and were decisive that Milorad Jovanovic did what he is accused of.”
According to the charges, Jovanovic- then a Bosnian Serb reservist policeman- worked with his commander Slavko Vukovic and other unnamed policy officers to force non-Serbs from their villages near Sanski Most to the museum in Lusci Palanka where they were held as prisoners.
In a bid to get information about weapons or an alleged resistance group, Jovanovic hit prisoners with his fists, a shotgun, and other objects. He also kicked them, and tied them to chairs or beams on the ceiling in order to beat them.
While he was torturing prisoners, Jovanovic also forced prisoner Dedo Dervisevic to crawl on the floor and kiss his boots. Dervisevic later died as a result of his being beaten by Jovanovic.
From the outset of the trail, Jovanovic denied his involvement in torturing prusoners. He said he had hit one civilian prisoner several times, but that he had not beat the victim using “strong” blows. According to Jovanovic, the victim remained uninjured after the incident.
“Milorad Jovanovic is collateral damage and he is being burdened with someone else’s crimes and someone else’s war profiteering,” Jovanovic’s defence lawyer Marko Milovic told the court during his first trial in 2021.
Jovanovic was first indicted in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2015. The case was taken over by Serbian courts in 2017. This week’s verdict is a first-instance ruling, and can be appealed by Jovanovic.
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