27th anniversary of the murder of 116 Bosniak civilians in the village of Ahmici near Vitez, who were killed in 1993 by members of the Croatian HVO, is marked on Thursday.
The Ahmici massacre was the culmination of the Lašva Valley ethnic cleansing committed by the Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna’s political and military leadership on Bosnian Muslim civilians during the Bosnian War in April 1993.
The massacre of the Ahmici was the biggest massacre committed during the war between Croats and the Bosnian government (dominated by Bosniaks). The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague ruled that these crimes were crimes against humanity in numerous charges against Croat political and military leaders and soldiers.
In particular, Dario Kordić, political leader of Croats in Central Bosnia was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
On January 5th this year, the criminal Drago Josipovic, a Hague convict for crimes in Ahmici, sentenced to 12 years in prison, died on Saturday at the Croatian hospital “Dr. Mato Nikolic “in Nova Bela.
He was sentenced to 12 years in prison by the Hague tribunal for direct involvement in the attack on Ahmici.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has ruled that the Ahmici massacre was a crime against humanity.
This is one of the worst war crimes committed during the war in Bosnia- Herzegovina and probably the worst perpetrated by the Croatian Defense Council (HVO) forces.
Drago Josipovic was born on 14 February 1955 in Santici, Bosnia Herzegovina. Before the conflict, he worked in a chemicals factory.
Drago Josipovic was a member of the HVO of Santici, a village lying in the Lasva valley.
The HVO was the executive, administrative and supreme military organ of the HZ H-B/HR H-B (Croatian Community of the Herceg-Bosna/Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna), created in November 1991. This community considered itself to be a separate distinct legal entity within the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
According to the indictment (modified on 9 February 1998), between October 1992 and April 1993, Drago Josipovic was reported to have persecuted the Muslim inhabitants of Ahmici-Santici and its surroundings on political, racial or religious grounds by planning, organising and carrying out an attack aimed at evacuating or “cleansing” the village and the surrounding region of all of the Bosnian Muslims.
The indictment also alleged that Josipovic had helped in the preparations for the April attack against the civilian population of Ahmici-Santici. The HVO was said to have firstly bombarded Ahmici-Santici from a distance, with groups of soldiers subsequently going from house to house and, using incendiary tracer bullets and explosives, aggressing Bosnian Muslim civilians and taking possession of their belongings.
More precisely, during the attack on Ahmici, on the dawn of 16 April 1993, Drago Josipovic was reported to have participated personally in the attack against two houses inhabited by Muslim families, killing at least three persons, expelling all the others and setting fire to one of the houses.
Around 103 Bosnian Muslim civilians were killed in Ahmici-Santici and its surroundings. Amongst these 103 persons could be counted approximately 33 women and children. In Ahmici-Santici, soldiers from the HVO destroyed roughly 176 houses belonging to Bosnian Muslims, as well as two Mosques.
Drago Josipovic gave himself up voluntarily on 6 October 1997. He was transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on the same day.
Drago Josipovic gave himself up voluntarily on 6 October 1997. He was transferred to The Hague on the same day.
He appeared before the ICTY for the first time on 8 October 1997, and pleaded not guilty to the five counts with which he was charged.
Drago Josipovic was charged on the grounds of his individual criminal responsibility (Art. 7 § 1 ICTY Statute) for:
– 3 counts of crimes against humanity (Art. 5 ICTY Statutes: persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, murder and other inhumane acts);
– 2 counts of violations of the laws or customs of war (Art. 3 ICTY Statute: murder and cruel treatment).
On 14 January 2000, the Trial Chamber found Drago Josipovic guilty by way of his individual criminal responsibility for:
– three counts of crimes against humanity (Art. 5 ICTY Statute: persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, murder and inhumane acts) and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.
On the other hand, Drago Josipovic was found not guilty on the grounds of his individual criminal responsibility for:
– violations of the laws or customs of war (Art. 3 ICTY Statute: murder and cruel treatment).
Indeed, the elements defining murder as a war crime are already included in those of murder as a crime against humanity. Thus, the prohibition of murder as a crime against humanity has the value of a lex specialis compared to the prohibition of murder as a war crime. It therefore must take precedence.
On 26 January 2000, Drago Josipovic filed an appeal.
The Appeals Chamber rendered its verdict on 23 October 2001. It accepted, in part, the defence argument and reduced the sentence from 15 to 12 years imprisonment.
The Appeals Chamber judged, in reducing the sentence, that the Trial Chamber had committed an error in basing itself on facts which the modified Indictment made no mention of, to find Josipovic guilty of persecutions.
The Appeals Chamber also considered that elements of proof were lacking to conclude that Josipovic had assumed some sort of commanding role during the attack against Ahmici.
On 21 February 2002, Drago Josipovic requested a further review of his case. On 7 March 2003, the Appeals Chamber rejected his request.
On 9 April 2002, Drago Josipovic was transferred to Spain to the Villahierro prison in the province of Leon to serve out the remainder of his sentence.
He was released on 30 January 2006, having served two thirds of his sentence.