Bosnia and Herzegovina: justice resumes for wartime civilian killings

Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina © Euronews/ Tužilaštvo Bosne i Hercegovine

In Focus by Catherine Gregoire

On 27 October 2020, the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina released a statement revealing the detainment of two persons suspected of being involved in the killing of at least 78 civilians in June 1992. The killing occurred in the northwestern village of Velagici using automatic weapons outside of a primary school building. The victims’ bodies were later discarded in a mass grave that was exhumed in 1996. Most of the victims were identified as Muslim. The killing has been proven as a crime against humanity, which the two suspects have been subsequently charged with under Article 172 of the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In September, Bosnian authorities also arrested seven former military officers and troops suspected of being directly involved in the killing of 44 Bosnian civilians in the area of Sokolac in September 1992. The youngest of the civilians was aged 14. After the killings, the rubble from a demolished mosque in Novoseoci was thrown over the bodies of the victims. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, all but one of the victims’ remains have been exhumed from the site. Some of the victims had as many as 178 bullet wounds. Among the suspects is Radislav Krstić, who was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 2004 on charges of aiding genocide and crimes against humanity. He is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence. 

The two respective killings above form part of “wartime” killings committed during the 1992-95 war when Bosnian Serbs rebelled over the country’s independence from the former Yugoslavia. According to the Bosnian Book of the Dead, almost 100, 000 people died due to the conflict. Roughly half of them were civilians.  

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