The Council of Split County Court, chaired by judge Slavko Lozina, after a hurriedly reopened trial (the court hearing lasted only two and a half hours), sentenced Pavle Pantić (78), the former captain of the Yugoslav Navy battleship and the deputy head of the Lora Military Base, for a six-year (6) prison sentence for war crimes against civilians committed by shelling Split. During the shelling, four civilians were killed, 12 were injured, while civilian, housing and economic facilities were heavily damaged. The sentence was rendered on December 29, 2016.
Pantić was arrested for the war crime in the late 2015in Montenegro, on the basis of the arrest warrant, issued by the Split County Court in 1993 and then extradited to Croatia on April 21, 2017. He was arrested at the Montenegrin border while returning to Sutomore (not far from Bar) from Belgrade. He and 30 other officers were charged with carrying out the duty of commanders in Yugoslav People’s Army, and implementing the decisions and plans of the YPA General Staff, within which they commanded the siege of Croatian ports and cities, terrorized the civilian population and carried out attacks on the cities and the population in the wider area of Split, Trogir, Kaštela, Solin, Ploče and Brač, from September 1991 to the end of January 1992.
They were found guilty at trial in 1993 and sentenced from seven to 15 years in prison. Pavle Pantić was sentenced to eight years in prison in absentia, but the following year, in 1994, the court quashed the sentence and returned the case to a retrial.
Both the prosecution and defense filed their appeals against the sentence passed after the repeated proceedings.
The public session was held on May 16, 2017.
The Supreme Court found significant violations of the criminal procedure provisions, which is why the case was returned for retrial and decision.
Summary of major violations:
– Absence of reason for decisive facts (there is no analysis of the specific actions of the accused, no evidence has been provided on the basis of which the first-instance court ruled in which actions the accused was commanding, passing the command or personally opened fire, no reasons are given in relation to the defendant’s command functions.
– Lack of explanation of the sentence – the content of numerous read and examined evidence is unclear, only one witness was examined directly, 92 testimonies were read out, whereas in the explanatory statement of the sentence there is one report and summarized content of the testimony of only four witnesses.
– First instance court failed to ask parties whether they had any objections to presented evidence, and in relation to that decide whether to examine witnesses directly.
– all the evidence listed in the first-instance sentence has not been read or actually derived, which raises doubts about the respect of the principle of the immediacy.
– The accused was found guilty and sentenced under the Penal Code of the Republic of Croatia, while for investigative jail, new Penal Code from 2011 was applied. The principle is supposed to apply one law.
The proceedings will be repeated before the first-instance Council of the Split County Court.
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