Global perspective Human stories

UN tribunal transfers Bosnian Croat convicted over deadly village attack to Spain

UN tribunal transfers Bosnian Croat convicted over deadly village attack to Spain

Ivica Rajić
A former Bosnian Croat militia commander who was sentenced to 12 years’ jail for a notorious attack on a village where more than three dozen Muslims were killed will serve the rest of his sentence in Spain after being transferred today by the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Ivica Rajić, 48, became the 27th person to be transferred by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which sits in The Hague in the Netherlands, to another European country to serve out the remainder of his custodial sentence.

As a result of agreements signed by countries and the ICTY, men or women convicted by the Tribunal are now serving their sentence in Austria, Germany, Spain, Norway, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, France and the United Kingdom.

Mr. Rajić, former commander of the Second Operational Group of the Bosnian Croat Army, pleaded guilty in October 2005 to four charges relating to breaches of the Geneva conventions: wilful killing, inhumane treatment (including sexual assault), extensive destruction, and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.

At his trial the ICTY judges found that Mr. Rajić’s crimes in the central Bosnian village of Stupni Do on 23 October 2003 “were committed on a large scale, were of particularly violent nature and caused severe pain to the victims and their relatives.”

Under the command of Mr. Rajić, Bosnian Croat forces attacked and gained control of Stupni Do, forcing residents out of their homes and robbing them of valuables before sexually assaulting some of the women. The village was largely destroyed and 37 Muslims, almost all non-combatants, were killed.

When one group of villagers tried to flee, two women and three children were murdered in front of their home, while another group were found hiding in a cellar and killed. The bodies of other victims – including elderly women and young children – were found burned inside their house or their shelter.

In a separate attack on the same day, Mr. Rajić and his forces rounded up more than 250 Muslim men, regardless of their civilian or military status, in the nearby town of Vareš. The men were arrested, often robbed, and then detained at two schools under treacherous conditions in which many were beaten.

The ICTY noted the importance of the role Mr. Rajić played in these events when, following orders of his own superiors, he planned and ordered the attacks and further ordered the rounding up of Muslim civilians, knowing the substantial likelihood that criminal acts would ensue following these orders.

As mitigating circumstances, the Tribunal held that Mr. Rajić’s guilty plea helped to establish the truth surrounding the crimes committed in Stupni Do and Vareš, and also noted the remorse he expressed at his sentencing hearing.