Massacre in Grabovica

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Massacre in Grabovica
Location Grabovica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Date 8–9 September 1993 (Central European Time)
Target Croats
Attack type
Mass Killing
Deaths 13–35
Perpetrators Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH)

The Massacre in Grabovica was a war crime committed against at least 13, and as many as 35[1][2] Croatian inhabitants of the village of Grabovica by members of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH) 9th Brigade and other unidentified members of ARBiH on 8 or 9 September 1993. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found that the Prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the other 14 persons listed in the indictment were killed by members of the ARBiH in Grabovica, at the time relevant for the case. The Trial Chamber also noted that during the case, six of the alleged victims listed in the indictment were withdrawn.[3]

Background[edit]

Main article: Croat-Bosniak war

Before the start of the Bosnian War, the objectives of nationalists from Croatia were shared by Croat nationalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[4] On November 18, 1991, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party branch in Bosnia and Herzegovina, proclaimed the existence of the Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia, as a separate "political, cultural, economic and territorial whole," on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. [5] On June 18, 1992 the Bosnian Territorial Defence in Novi Travnik received an ultimatum from the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) which included demands to abolish existing Bosnia and Herzegovina institutions, establish the authority of the Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia and pledge allegiance to it, subordinate the Territorial Defense to the HVO and expel Muslim refugees, all within 24 hours. The attack against Bosnian Muslims was launched on June 19 and the Croat-Bosniak war was triggered.[6]

Mostar was divided into a Western part, which was dominated by the HVO and an Eastern part where the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was largely concentrated. However, the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH) had its headquarters in West Mostar in a building complex referred to as Vranica. In the early hours of May 9, 1993, the HVO attacked Mostar using artillery, mortars, heavy weapons and small arms. The HVO controlled all roads leading into Mostar and international organisations were denied access. Radio Mostar announced that all Bosniaks should hang out a white flag from their windows. The HVO attack had been well prepared and planned.[7]

The HVO took over the west side of the city and expelled thousands of Bosniaks from the west side into the east side of the city.[5] HVO engaged in a mass execution, ethnic cleansing and rape on the Bosniak people of the West Mostar and its surrounds, and a fierce siege and shelling campaign on the Bosnian Government run East Mostar. It resulted in thousands of injured and killed. The HVO shelling reduced much of the east side of Mostar to rubble. [5]

Neretva 93 operation[edit]

Main article: Operation Neretva '93

In order to conduct combat operations in Herzegovina to lift the Croat blockade of Mostar, units of the 9th Brigade, the 10th Brigade and the 2nd Independent Battalion, all subordinated to the ARBiH 1st Corps, were sent from Sarajevo to the Jablanica sector. This was the area where Grabovica was situated and it was at the time the area of responsibility of the 6th Corps. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found that those units were deployed to Herzegovina following an order issued by Sefer Halilović.[8]

Murders[edit]

Grabovica was a village inhabited by Croats. It had been under ARBiH control since May 1993 and the relationship between the residents of Grabovica and the ARBiH soldiers who were stationed there was good and, as there was no other accommodation available for the arriving troops, they were supposed to be posted with the inhabitants of the village. The reputation of the arriving troops of the 9th and 10th Brigades was bad, because of criminal and uncontrolled elements within. According to ICTY, the evidence showed that members of both brigades not only demonstrated a lack of discipline, but also committed different forms of misappropriation (thefts etc.) The Trial Chamber noted in this respect the testimony of the 1st Corps Commander Vahid Karavelić who, while knowing of breaches of discipline and previous behaviour of members of these brigades, said that it never occurred to him that they might commit atrocities against civilians in Grabovica.[9]

With the arrival of the unit of the 9th Brigade the atmosphere in the village of Grabovica changed and acts of violence began to occur. Throughout the night of 8 September, shooting was heard in the village. The ICTY established that by the early afternoon of 9 September, a number of inhabitants had been murdered by members of the ARBiH units present in Grabovica at the time. The ICTY Trial Chamber found that it has been established beyond reasonable doubt that 13 inhabitants, taking no active part in the hostilities, were murdered by members of the 9th Brigade and unidentified members of the ARBiH on 8 or 9 September 1993 (Pero Marić, Dragica Marić, Ivan Zadro, Matija Zadro, Mladen Zadro, Ljubica Zadro and Mladenka Zadro, Josip Brekalo, Martin Marić, Živko Drežnjak, Ljuba Drežnjak, Ivan Mandić and Ilka Miletić). The Trial Chamber found that the Prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that 14 persons listed in the indictment were killed by members of the ARBiH in Grabovica at the time relevant for the Grabovica case. The Trial Chamber noted that during trial, six of the alleged victims listed in the indictment were withdrawn.[10][11]

Investigation[edit]

After the information about the murders had reached Sarajevo, the ARBiH started investigation about the crimes committed. The 6th Corps Security Service, the Military Police Battalion of the 6th Corps and the Military Police of the 44th Brigade, which was located in Jablanica, were involved in the investigation into the events in Grabovica. The Chief of Security of the ARBiH Main Staff Jusuf Jašarević was informed of the results of their investigations. The ICTY found that based on the evidence, it could not be concluded that Sefer Halilović had the material ability to punish the perpetrators of the crimes committed in Grabovica.[12]

ICTY Trial[edit]

Bosnian commander Sefer Halilović was indicted by ICTY on the basis of superior criminal responsibility (Article 7(3) of the Statute of the Tribunal) and charged with one count of violation of the laws and customs of war (Article 3 – murder). Having examined all the evidence presented to it and in light of its factual findings, the ICTY found that the Prosecution did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that Sefer Halilović had effective control over the troops in Grabovica on the 8th and 9th of September 1993, who the Trial Chamber has found committed the crimes. Consequently Halilović was found not guilty.[13]

Verdicts[edit]

In 2008, the Supreme Court of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed three local court convictions of 13 years in prison against Nihad Vlahovljak, Sead Karagić and Haris Rajkić, former ARBiH soldiers for the crimes committed in Grabovica. The Court found that Nihad Vlahovljak ordered the murders, and the other two executed his order.[14]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hoare (2004), p. 94
  2. ^ Thomas (2006), p. 27
  3. ^ ICTY - Sefer Halilović judgment - Findings on the crimes charged Paragraph 3 and 4 - [1]
  4. ^ "ICTY: Blaškić verdict - A. The Lasva Valley: May 1992 – January 1993t". 
  5. ^ a b c "ICTY: Prlić et al. (IT-04-74)". 
  6. ^ ICTY - Kordic and Cerkez judgment - II. PERSECUTION: THE HVO TAKE-OVERS B. Novi Travnik - [2]
  7. ^ "ICTY: Naletilić and Martinović verdict - Mostar attack". 
  8. ^ ICTY Trial Chamber judgment in Sefer Halilovic case - [3]
  9. ^ ICTY - Sefer Halilović judgment - Facts in relation to Grabovica Paragraph 2 and 3 - [4]
  10. ^ ICTY - Sefer Halilović judgment - Findings on the crimes charged Paragraph 3 and 4 - [5]
  11. ^ ICTY - Sefer Halilović judgment - Findings on the crimes charged Paragraph 3 and 4 - [6]
  12. ^ ICTY - Sefer Halilović judgment - Findings in Relation to the Individual Criminal Responsibility of the Accused - [7]
  13. ^ Documents related to Halilović (IT-01-48) case [8]
  14. ^ Vrhovni sud FBiH potvrdio kazne za ratni zločin u Grabovici - [9]

References[edit]

Books[edit]