Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

COURTSIDE: Stankovic and Deronjic case

Newly-arrested duo arrive to face war crimes charges
By Mirna Jancic

The Hague tribunal received two newcomers last week - Bosnian Serb


indictees Miroslav Deronjic and Radovan Stankovic. The two will be tried for war crimes committed against non-Serbs during the Bosnian conflict.


Deronjic is charged with an attack on unarmed Muslim village in eastern Bosnia, while Stankovic allegedly participated in the rape and sexual enslavement of Muslim women and girls in Foca, in 1992.


Both men were arrested last week by NATO-led security force SFOR in Republika Srpska. NATO secretary general George Robertson used the opportunity to appeal to the tribunal's top two fugitives, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, to surrender or also face capture.


International troops arrested Deronjic only four days after confirmation of his sealed indictment. He pleaded not guilty to charges that, as president of Bratunac municipal crisis staff, he was responsible for the killing of 60 Muslim civilians in the village of Glogova on May 9, 1992.


The prosecution claims the then Yugoslav Peoples' Army and local territorial defence units attacked the village and that at least one victim was killed in Deronjic's presence.


The tribunal publicly indicted Stankovic in 1996 and has since sentenced three of his co-accused - Dragoljub Kunarac, Zoran Vukovic and Radomir Kovac - to lengthy prison terms. Two other co-accused, Dragan Gagovic and Janko Janjic, were fatally injured during SFOR's attempts to arrest them, while another two - Gojko Jankovic and Dragan Zelenovic - remain at large.


Stankovic, who was a member of an elite Serb paramilitary unit led by Pero Elez, refused to plead on four counts of the indictment charging him with individual criminal responsibility for rape, enslavement and outrages on the personal dignity of nine women in Foca. Some of his alleged victims were as young as twelve.


The defendant's refusal to enter a plea was followed by this statement, "I am guilty because I am a Serb and because I defended my people". Judge Schomburg entered a "not guilty" plea on his behalf, in accordance with the standard procedure for cases in which the accused refuses to enter a plea.


Serb forces detained women in Foca after the takeover of the town in April 1992. They were kept in improvised brothels for the soldiers and repeatedly raped while being subjected to humiliating and degrading conditions.


Following the death of Elez, it is claimed that Stankovic took control of the house used as the brothel on behalf of his forces. Their victims also had to cook and clean for the men and were often threatened with death because "they knew too much".


Towards the end of the accused's initial appearance, Judge Schomburg stated that a number of factors - including length of pre-trial detention and the tribunal's caseload - should lead the chamber to examine the possibility of passing the trial over to the jurisdiction of another court.


The prosecution objects to the possibility of transferring the case to the Bosnian courts, which currently appears unlikely. The tribunal is working with local authorities to enable war crimes trials to take place in the existing state court under international standards.


Cantonal and district courts in the country currently have the right to hold war crimes trials subject to receipt of tribunal approval under the 1996 Rome Rules of the Road agreement.


Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor


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