The trial of Dragan Vasiljković (aliases Captain Dragan, Daniel Snedden) commenced on 20 September 2016 at the County Court of Split and is presided over by judge Damir Romac.
Criminal proceedings against Mr. Vasiljković have been ongoing since December 2005, when the County Court of Šibenik launched an investigation into crimes committed 14 and 12 years earlier.
It is based on this Šibenik County Court’s decision that the Australian authorities initiated extradition proceedings against Mr. Vasiljković, a holder of dual citizenship with Serbia and Australia to deliver him to Croatia.
He was extradited in July 2015 and remanded at Split Prison.
The investigation Croatian judiciary has been conducting for almost 10 years was at last crowned with an indictment in January 2016.
Mr. Vasiljković has been in custody since January 2006, with short intervals of being outside.
He is facing charges for war crimes on the basis of superior and individual criminal responsibility. He failed to prevent his subordinates from torturing POWs and civilians held in an improvised prison facility in Knin Fortress between June and July 1991, issued orders to execute two captured members of the HV in February 1993 in Bruska near Benkovci and partook in the development of a plan of assault on a police station and the villages surrounding Glina during which civilians were killed, wounded and deported, and which left numerous houses and infrastructure damaged.
The trial opened with the reading of the indictment. Mr. Vasiljković pleaded not guilty.
All parties to the proceedings offered their opening statements. The Accused was properly informed of the procedure. He is guaranteed a professional defence by the counsel of his own choosing.
The courtroom satisfies the standards required for adequate administration of justice. Two security checks are performed, one at the main entrance and the other at the courtroom entrance, while the order is maintained by 7 court officers.
The trial is scheduled to proceed on 18, 19 and 20 October 2016, at 09:00 h. Twelve witnesses will be questioned.
Vasiljkovic Case Trial Report
The County Court of Split, 18-20 October 2016
The Prosecution case against Mr. Dragan Vasiljkovic have officially commenced by examination of victims/witnesses.
Eight out of twelve called witnesses testified during a three-day session. Some of them were not properly subpoenaed, while one witness could not attend court due to sickness.
The witnesses’ testimonies concerned the first count of the Indictment which charges the Accused with failure to prevent his subordinates from torturing POWs and civilians held in an improvised prison facility in the Knin Fortress between June and July 1991. The first count further avers that the Accused physically assaulted two prisoners.
One witness testified about the mortar shelling of Glina and its surroundings, which is alleged in the third count of the Indictment.
Four witnesses described the conduct of the prison guards in great detail, mentioning systematic beatings, denial of food and drinking water, physical abuse and inhumane prison conditions. One of them was punched in the head by the Accused himself, which caused bleeding.
According to the witnesses, the Accused was aware of their ordeal because their injuries were visible, but did nothing to stop the abuse. The witnesses are certain that the Accused was the superior of their abusers who were known as “Marticevci”.
The Defence contended that the testimonies of these witnesses were inconsistent.
Three witnesses testified about their imprisonment in the wake of the 26 June 1991 assault on the Glina police station. They were allegedly taken to Golubic and then to an old Knin hospital whose premises were being used as a prison facility. Their testimonies, however, pertain to the events outside of the Indictment’s scope.
Witness Elvis Anic was serving in the Croatian army at the time of the 26 June 1991 assault (third count). “The Croats targeted Serbian positions too, using 90mm mortars. One shell hit a local church. Only then have the Serbs started to return fire”, said the witness.
The trial will resume on 21 November 2016 and is scheduled for 22, 23, 28 and 29 of the same month.
D. Vasiljkovic Trial Report
The County Court of Split, 21-23, 28-29 November 2016.
The Prosecution case-in-chief resumed as the testimonies of two late witnesses, given in 2006 during the investigation procedure were read. Then, a witness/ victim, Mr. Osman Vikic testified about the Knin Fortress events. After that, 13 ex-Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Croatia officers and the Glina municipality Defence Commander testified about the 1991 attacks on the Glina Police Station, Gornji Vidusevac and Jukinac.
Mr. Osman Vikic, who worked as a policeman in Zadar at the time, was captured by “Marticevci” while he was visiting his parents in Udbina. He was then taken to an improvised prison facility in the Knin Fortress where he was slapped by the Accused during the questioning. According to Mr. Vikic, that was the only time he saw the Accused. Mr. Vikic noted that he did not see some of the individuals averred as imprisoned there in the Indictment. Injuries he suffered during his 20-day imprisonment included a fractured skull, broken ribs, pneumonia and were classed as grievous bodily harm.
“Captain Dragan was in charge of the 26 July 1991 attack on the Glina Police Station. His men were at the scene along with the volunteer corps. He commanded and instructed his soldiers using a Motorola walkie-talkie and military radio. Stanko Divjakinja, commander of the volunteer corps led the attacks on Gornji and Donji Vidusevac and Jukinac that followed the Glina Police Station assault.” said the ex- Glina municipality Defence Commander.
Other witnesses described the Glina attack at the end of July 1991. They either did not know or offered hearsay information on the attack that, according to the Indictment, left two people dead and destroyed and damaged family houses and the local church. Mr. Slavko Kauric, the then chief of the local police in Gornji Vidusevac asserted that the attack was carried out by members of the so-called “Siltovi”, renegade unit of the Serb paramilitary forces.
The witnesses stated that some civilian objects like the local school and the rectory were turned into military objectives i.e. the command of the Croat forces was stationed there. The surrounding houses were temporarily garrisoned by soldiers keeping a lookout. The enemy forces were evidently superior. Their soldiers arrived at the scene in 15 trucks, and Jukinac was shelled by 10 to 15 tanks every couple of seconds. Croat forces in the area consisted of 135 police officers.
The next 10 witnesses will be heard at the sittings scheduled for 19 and 20 December 2016.
Vasiljkovic Trial Report
The County Court of Split, 19 December 2016, 1, 2, 7, 8 February 2017
Twenty witnesses testified on the Knin fortress captivity and attacks on Glina, Jukinac and Vidusevac. Additionally, several retired members of the Croatian Ministry of the Interior gave their accounts of events at the old Knin hospital that was used as an improvised prison facility but that is not part of the Indictment.
Wife and son of the deceased Nikola Regic who died in the attack on the outskirts of Glina did not witness his death but heard he was shot in the abdomen from where a tank was positioned. They do not know when or if the houses of the locals were destroyed. Other witnesses have stated that five to six houses were damaged on that occasion, while more extensive damage occurred during the Operation Storm. According to the witnesses, 25-30 Croatian police officers were garrisoned in these houses. Further on, 10-20 armed locals formed a resistance group and guarded the village.
The wife of a reporter who died in the Jukinac attack was heard as a hearsay witness. She was in Munich at the time of his death of which she learned from his colleagues and the local populace upon her return to Jukinac after Operation Storm. She claimed that the door of the car in which her husband was hit had ‘PRESS’ written on it. The marking was absent from the door in the photographs presented to her.
A journalist of the ‘Nacional’ magazine who witnessed the event confirmed that the vehicle transporting German reporters had a large, conspicuous ‘PRESS’ marking on it. He explained how a BMW automobile stopped and the driver asked him for directions to Glina. He warned the driver not to go there as there was an ongoing armed conflict in the area, but the automobile continued in that direction nonetheless. After fifteen minutes the BMW returned with a heavily wounded reporter in the back seat.
Two witnesses, victims of psychophysical torture according to the Indictment, captured by the Marticevci, described their imprisonment in Knin Fortress. They were held in a room without a toilet and systematically beaten, humiliated and threatened with a knife the captors would put to their throat. The Accused did not take part in the beatings nor did he come to prison.
The trial is set to continue on 9 March and then 20-24 March 2017.
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