GERMANY HANDS BOSNIAN GENOCIDE CONVICTION
“Whoever hoped … something like the genocide of the Nazis against the Jews could never be repeated sees himself cruelly disappointed after the events in the former Yugoslavia.” – German Judge Guenter Krentz said in his judgement.
GERMANY — A Bosnian Serb who was accused of beating a prisoner to death with a plank, ordering executions and committing other crimes against Bosniaks was convicted of genocide and sentenced to life in prison.
Nikola Jorgic, 51, showed no emotion as the court declared him guilty of 11 counts of genocide, 30 counts of murder and numerous lesser charges for crimes committed during the Bosnian war.
Judge Guenter Krentz called Jorgic’s crimes “especially onerous” and sentenced him to life in prison, as prosecutors had asked.
It was the first genocide verdict in Germany. The international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, had asked Germany to handle the cases of Jorgic and another Bosnian Serb since its own docket was overloaded and the men were arrested in Germany.
Jorgic, who headed a group of radical-nationalist Bosnian Serbs, had questioned the court’s jurisdiction.
The judge said Jorgic was actively involved in Bosnian Serbs’ efforts to exterminate and expel Bosnian Muslims from their homes in 1992, as war was breaking out in the former Yugoslav republic.
“Whoever hoped … something like the genocide of the Nazis against the Jews could never be repeated sees himself cruelly disappointed after the events in the former Yugoslavia,” Krentz said.
Jorgic, who worked in West Germany’s Ruhr Valley as a locksmith from 1969 until early 1992, claimed he was in prison from May to August 1992 in the Bosnian town of Doboj, near his native village of Kostajnica.
But testimony of more than 30 witnesses proved Jorgic was involved in the crimes, including the June 1992 massacre of 22 Muslims in the village of Grapska, the court ruled.
In this case, the accused, a Bosnian Serb from the Doboj region, was tried for genocide in eleven cases, three of which included the murder (homocide) of a total of 30 persons. The other eight cases involved grievious bodily harm and or unlawful detention.
The accused was sentenced to four terms of life imprisonments and in the other eight cases to imprisonments of seven to nine years, which were then summed up to an additional life imprisonment. The Supreme State Court declared that the guilt of the accused weighed particularly heavy.
It was determined that the accused had been the leader of a paramilitary group located in the Doboj region of Bosnia-Herzegowina, which, in cooperation with the Serbian rulers, was involved in acts of terror against the Bosniak population, in support of their policy of “ethnic cleansing”.
Apart from the arrests, abuse and placement of Bosniaks in concentration camps, the Supreme State Court established in June of 1992 that the accused and one further person executed 22 citizens of Grabska (among them disabled and elderly), who had gathered out doors in fear of the fighting going on around them. Three other Bosniaks were then forced to carry the slain to a mass grave.
A few days later the accused and his followers drove 40 to 50 men from the village of Sevarlije. They were brutally abused and six of them were shot. A seventh victim, who had only been injured in the shootings, died when he was burned with the other six victims in a stall
In September 1992, the accused put a tin pail on the head of a captive in the central jail of Doboj and hammered on it with a wooden club in such a way that the victim died of head wounds.
The 3rd Criminal Court of the Federal high Court rejected the appeal of the accused, because the State Supreme Court had rightfully assumed the jurisdiction of the German courts and because it had also affirmed the constitutent facts of § 220a StGB (genocide) with its results.
The prosecution at the international criminal court for the former Yugoslavia had previously rejected accepting the case. The Federal High Court accepted, on legal grounds, only one case, instead of eleven, of genocide involving the murder of 30 persons, with a life sentence. Additionally, it affirmed the particular weight of guilt, because in this case the content of injustice and guilt had not changed.
Furthermore, the court stated that genocide, according to the Genocide Convention from 9 December 1948 (joined by Germany [in 1954]) is a crime which all nations must prosecute. Therefore, it is the decision of the German law makers, that the prosecution of genocide is subordinate to global principles [of international law], and certainly not to be objected to if legitimate reasons exist for German legal actions.
Following reasons were given: the accused resided in Germany from May 1969 to the beginning of 1992 and after this date he was still even registered there; his German wife and his daughter, whom he visited a number of times after his crimes, still live in Germany, he was arrested in Germany after having entered on his own free will.
The jurisdiction for the sentencing of genocide includes also the jurisdiction for the sentencing of murder in as much as the accused committed deliberate homicide in the perpetration of genocide.
Another three Serbs were convicted in Germany.
Novislav Djajic, was convicted May 24 1997 by a Munich court of being an accessory to murder and sentenced to five years in prison.
In 1999, Maksim Sokolovic was found guilty of five counts of assault and 56 counts of deprivation of liberty during attacks on Muslims near his native village of Osmaci in Bosnia. Based on witnesses who named him as a Serb militiaman, the Duesseldorf court said Sokolovic, 59, beat Muslims with an automatic rifle butt, a fence post, batons and his fists.
Same year, former Bosnian Serb police commander Djuradj Kusljic was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday on the grounds of crimes committed against humanity and six murders.
Kusljic was accused of having taken part in “planned destruction” of Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992 as police commander in the place of Vrbnica, 40km from Banja Luka. He was arrested in Germany where he had lived before the war.