Home > srebrenica massacre > DRAGAN OBRENOVIC – GUILTY

DRAGAN OBRENOVIC – GUILTY

December 11, 2005

Dragan Obrenovic (IT-02-60/2) “Srebrenica”

Chief-of-Staff and Deputy Commander of the 1st Zvornik Infantry Brigade (“Zvornik Brigade”) of the Drina Corps of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) from December 1992 to November 1996. From 8 August 1995 until 15 September 1995 and again from 18 September 1995 to 24 September 1995, he was Acting Commander of the Zvornik Brigade.


Born 12 April 1963 in Rogatica, Bosnia-Herzegovina
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Arrest / Surrendered

15 April 2001, arrested and detained by SFOR
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Transferred to ICTY

15 April 2001
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Initial Appearances

18 April 2001, pleaded “not guilty” to all counts. 21 May 2003, pleaded “guilty” to Count five of the Indictment: persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds, a crime against humanity. The remaining charges were withdrawn.
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Separation of the case

23 May 2003: IT-02-60/2
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Sentencing hearing

30 October 2003
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Trial Chamber Sentencing Judgement

10 December 2003, sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment
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Serving Sentence

Transferred to Norway on 18 June 2004 to serve the remainder of his sentence. Credit for time served since 15 April 2001.


Pleaded “guilty” to Count five of the Indictment: persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds, a crime against humanity. The remaining charges were withdrawn.
Sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment
Serving sentence in Norway

Crimes convicted of (examples):

Persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds (crimes against humanity)

Aiding and abetting in the planning, preparation, and execution of persecutions.

Failure to act in the face of the commission of the crime of persecutions – by being passive when he should have prevented his subordinates from committing the criminal acts or punished them for such crimes afterwards.

The crime of persecutions was carried out through the following means:

The murder of thousands of Bosniak civilians, including men, women, children and elderly persons. At one location, Branjevo Military Farm, in eastern Bosnia, approximately 1,200 Bosniak men who had been captured were executed by automatic weapon fire.

The Bosniak civilians were subjected to acts of violence, including beatings at schools and other detention centres in the area of Zvornik, a town in eastern Bosnia on the border with Serbia. In Luke, near Tisca, some of the women who had been separated from their male relatives in Potocari, on 13 July 1995, were “selected” by soldiers of the Army of the Republika Srpska (VRS) to go to a school where they were abused and assaulted; men and boys were also selected and abused before being taken for execution.

From 13 to 16 July 1995, at detention centres and execution sites, Bosniak civilians from Srebrenica and Potocari were mistreated and abused.

Beginning around 12 July 1995 and continuing throughout the period of the executions, the personal property of the Bosniak prisoners, including their identification documents, was confiscated and destroyed by members of the VRS and the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) in the Zvornik area.

The Indictment (“Srebrenica”)
The Office of The Prosecutor brought an indictment against Dragan Obrenovic on 16 March 2001, which was confirmed on 9 April 2001 (IT-01-43). The initial indictment charged Dragan Obrenovic with five counts (complicity in genocide, extermination, murder as a crime against humanity, murder as a violation of the laws or customs of war). The initial indictment was joined with the indictments issued against Vidoje Blagojevic (IT-98-33/1) and Dragan Jokic (IT-01-44) pursuant to an oral decision of Trial Chamber II of 15 January 2002. Under the joint indictment filed on 22 January 2002 (IT-02-53), the three accused were charged as members of a joint criminal enterprise for the same charges as in the initial indictment. On 17 May 2002, Trial Chamber II granted the prosecution’s motion to join the indictment against Momir Nikolic (IT-02-56) with the joint indictment. The Prosecution filed the joint amended indictment (IT-02-60) on 27 May 2002. Under this indictment, the charges and the modes of responsibility alleged against Dragan Obrenovic were identical to those set forth in the previous joint indictment. On 23 May 2003, following his guilty plea, Dragan Obrenovic was assigned case number IT-02-60/2.

Charges:
The indictment contained five counts charging Dragan Obrenovic, on the basis of individual criminal responsibility (Article 7(1) of the Statute of the Tribunal) and his superior criminal responsibility (Article 7(3)) with:

Complicity in genocide (genocide, Article 4(3)(e))
Murder, persecution, and inhumane acts (crimes against humanity, Article 5)
Murder (violations of the laws or customs of war, Article 3)

Plea Agreement
On 20 May 2003, both sides filed a “Joint Motion for Consideration of a Plea Agreement between Dragan Obrenovic and the Office of the Prosecutor”. A plea agreement was attached.

Guilty Plea
On 21 May 2003, Trial Chamber I held a hearing to consider the “Joint Motion for Consideration of Plea Agreement between Dragan Obrenovic and the Office of the Prosecutor”. The motion reflected a negotiated plea agreement whereby the accused would agree to plead guilty to one count of crimes against humanity namely persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds.

The Trial Chamber accepted the plea agreement and guilty plea, and entered a finding of “guilt” against Dragan Obrenovic for Count 5 of the indictment, namely persecutions, a crime against humanity. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Prosecution moved to dismiss the remaining counts. On 23 May 2003, the Trial Chamber granted the motion. Additionally, under the plea agreement, Dragan Obrenovic agreed to testify in other proceedings before the Tribunal, including those trials related to Srebrenica. In October 2003, Dragan Obrenovic testified for seven days in the trial of his two former co-accused.

The sentencing hearing was held on 30 October 2003.

Trial Chamber Sentencing Judgement
Dragan Obrenovic was sentenced for his participation in the crime of persecution committed following the fall of the Srebrenica enclave in July 1995.

In March 1995, political and military leaders in the “Republika Srpska” issued orders calling for, inter alia, the creation of “an unbearable situation of total insecurity, with no hope of further survival or life” for the inhabitants of Srebrenica.

Between 6 and 11 July 1995, the enclave of Srebrenica was shelled and attacked by units of the VRS Drina Corps. In the several days following this attack on Srebrenica, VRS forces captured, detained, summarily executed, and buried more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys from the Srebrenica enclave, and forcibly transferred the Bosniak women and children of Srebrenica out of the enclave.”

Within approximately one week in mid-July 1995, approximately 6,000 Bosnian men who had escaped in “the column” from Srebrenica were captured, detained and executed in various locations in the Bratunac and Zvrornik municipalities. At one location, Branjevo Military Farm, approximately 1,200 Bosniak men who had been captured from the column were executed by automatic weapon fire. More than 1,000 prisoners were executed at the Kravica warehouse on 13 July 1995; Dragan Obrenovic learned about the killing of the prisoners detained in the Kravica warehouse on 15 July 1995.

Members of the Zvornik Brigade, including members of the Military Police, participated in mass executions of Bosniak men either directly as executioners or by providing assistance by guarding the prisoners and transporting the captured men to execution sites. Members of the Zvornik Brigade further assisted in transporting the bodies of executed Bosniak men to mass grave sites.

According to Dragan Obrenovic, during the evening of 13 July 1995, he was informed by Drago Nikolic, Chief of Security of the Zvornik Brigade, of the plan to bring a “huge number of Muslim prisoners” from Bratunac to Zvornik to be executed there. According to Dragan Obrenovic, Drago Nikolic said everyone, including Dragan Obrenovic’s commander, knew about the plan to kill the prisoners.

Dragan Obrenovic was aware that the killing operation was occurring when he was back in the Zvornik Brigade Headquarters on the morning of 15 July 1995; Dragan Jokic had told him about problems with the burials of prisoners executed and the guarding of prisoners still to be executed.

On 16 July 1995, Dragan Obrenovic was told by Ostoja Stanisic, Commander of the 6th Battalion of the Zvornik Brigade, that Bosniak prisoners brought by Colonel Ljubisa Beara, Chief of Security of the VRS Main Staff, to the Petkovci School had been taken to the “Dam” near Petkovci to be executed; the last group of prisoners was executed at the school and members of the 6th Battalion of the Zvornik Brigade had to remove them to a mass grave at the “Dam”.

The Bosniak civilians were subjected to acts of violence, including beatings at schools and other detention centres in the Zvornik area. In Luke, near Tisca, some of the women who had been separated from their male relatives in Potocari were, on 13 July 1995, “selected” by VRS soldiers to go to a school where they were abused and assaulted; men and boys were also selected and abused before being taken for execution.

The Bosniak civilians who had been transferred from Srebrenica and Potocari to Zvornik during the dates of 13 to 16 July 1995 were terrorised. At detention centres and execution sites, the civilians were mistreated and abused.

Beginning on or around 12 July 1995 and continuing throughout the period of the executions, the personal property of the Bosniak prisoners, including their identification documents, was confiscated and destroyed by members of the VRS and the MUP in the Zvornik area.

The Trial Chamber found that Dragan Obrenovic was Deputy Commander and Chief-of-staff of the Zvornik Brigade – the brigade responsible for the municipality in which the vast majority of the executions took place. During the two days when many of these executions took place, he was the acting commander of the Zvornik Brigade. Dragan Obrenovic not only knew that members of the Zvornik Brigade took part in the organisation of the killings and the burials of the executed Bosniak prisoners, but also approved the release of members of the Zvornik Brigade to participate in the implementation of this plan on at least three occasions: He released seven of his men to “assist” with the prisoners – prisoners that he knew were to be shot. He ordered the commander of the Military Police of the Zvornik Brigade and five military policemen to assist Drago Nikolic. He also approved the release of two machine operators from the line, knowing that their task was the burial of executed prisoners. The Trial Chamber found that by approving the removal of his soldiers, Dragan Obrenovic participated in the implementation of the plan to kill the Bosniak prisoners. While the plan to kill the Bosniak prisoners was decided by commanders above Dragan Obrenovic, he released his men from their actual duties and ordered them to follow the orders that came from above. The Trial Chamber considered his participation through this action to be aiding and abetting. Dragan Obrenovic accepted criminal responsibility for his participation in the joint criminal enterprise as the common purpose of which was inter alia to execute and bury thousands of Bosniak men and boys from 12 July until about 19 July 1995. Hence, the Trial Chamber found that his participation was best characterized as “co-perpetratorship”.

The Trial Chamber found further that it is clear that Dragan Obrenovic was not present at execution sites while the killing operation was carried out. During the critical time period, Dragan Obrenovic attempted to fulfil his military duties in the field leading his men during heavy fighting at the frontline. Even while focusing on the defence of Zvornik, however, Dragan Obrenovic had a responsibility as the Acting Commander and as the Deputy Commander and Chief-of-Staff to prevent the commission of crimes by his subordinates, and in the event that such crimes were committed, to punish those who committed criminal offences. Dragan Obrenovic did neither and is therefore also responsible.

Weighing Dragan Obrenovic’s different forms of individual criminal responsibility, the Trial Chamber found Dragan Obrenovic‘s liability stemmed primarily from his responsibility as a commander.

The Trial Chamber took particular note of the vulnerability of the victims. They were all in a position of helplessness and were subject to cruel treatment at the hands of their captors. The Trial Chamber found this to be an aggravating factor.

The Trial Chamber further noted that Dragan Obrenovic tried to convince the VRS Main Staff to open the frontline to let the Bosniak columns pass through into territory under control of Bosnian government forces. Dragan Obrenovic also discussed the opening of a corridor with his Commander Vinko Pandurevic, who eventually ordered the opening of a corridor in the afternoon of 16 July 1995. Because of this opening of the corridor, further heavy fighting was prevented and many refugees safely reached territory under control of the Bosnian Government.

The Trial Chamber found that Dragan Obrenovic, under the force of his own conscience, has begun the process toward rehabilitation. This process began shortly after the murder operations, when after hearing a survivor of an execution on the radio, Dragan Obrenovic, asked General Radislav Krstic why the Bosniaks had been killed. The process continued when in 1998 Dragan Obrenovic permitted the Office of the Prosecutor to search the premises of the Zvornik Brigade knowing that the search was likely to yield information that could incriminate him. Later, knowing that he held the status of a suspect, Dragan Obrenovic agreed to speak with the Office of the Prosecutor and cooperate in their investigation of Srebrenica on three occasions and went so far as to offer to surrender himself. Dragan Obrenovic continued the process toward rehabilitation after his arrest by taking full responsibility for the crimes he has committed, and by cooperating fully with the Office of the Prosecutor.

Based on the evidence presented, the Trial Chamber found that prior to the war, Dragan Obrenovic was a highly respected member of the community who did not discriminate against anybody. Furthermore, the Trial Chamber found, based on witness testimony that even during the war Dragan Obrenovic provided help on an ongoing basis to several Bosniaks whom he previously had not known.

The Trial Chamber found numerous mitigating circumstances upon which they placed substantial weight. Through the unqualified acceptance of his responsibility and his guilt, his sincere remorse, his substantial cooperation with the Prosecution, and his character, Dragan Obrenovic mitigated his sentence. The Trial Chamber stressed that the allocation of significant weight to the mitigating circumstances should not be interpreted as dismissal of the enormous gravity of the offence for which Dragan Obrenovic was convicted.

On 10 December 2003, the Trial Chamber sentenced Dragan Obrenovic to 17 years’ imprisonment.

Conclusion of Proceedings
Neither party lodged an Appeal against the sentencing judgement.

On 18 June 2004, Dragan Obrenovic was transferred to Norway to serve his sentence.

keywords: Dragan Obrenovic, Srebrenica Genocide, Srebrenica Massacre, Bosniaks, Bosnian Muslims, Bosnia-Herzegovina

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