Štrpci Case: What is Your Name?

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In a few days, the 27th anniversary of the abduction at the Štrpci railway station will be marked. This is the railway station at which the express train no. 671 would not normally make a stop. On February 27 1993, members of the paramilitary group Avengers abducted 20 passengers from the Belgrade-Bar train. Among the abducted, there were 18 Bosniaks, one Croat and one person of unknown origin and of darker skin tone. 

Gojko Lukić, Ljubiša Vasiljević, Duško Vasiljević and Dragana Đekić, members of the Avengers, a unit under command of Milan Lukić, and Jovan Lipovac, member of the First Troop, First Battalion of the Višegrad Brigade of the Republic of Srpska Army are on trial before the War Crime Department of the Higher Court in Belgrade for the crime in Štrpci. They are charged with a crime against civilian population. After the abduction, they took all 20 passengers to the school in Prelovo (Višegrad Municipality, Bosnia and Herzegovina), where they were stripped naked, robbed and beaten up. Than the same group took the abducted people to a house in the nearby village of Mušići, where they were killed. The last stop for these twenty passengers was the Drina River, in which their bodies were thrown. 

On February 18, a lecture about the Štrpci case was organized for a group of eight young researchers at the Youth Initiative for Human Rights to prepare them for attending the hearing scheduled for February 19.  However, the hearing was postponed. Since January 2019, 14 hearings have been scheduled in the Štrpci case and only ten actually took place. 

The postponement of trials is not rare. This can happen for a series of more or less justified reasons. They may include the health of a judge, a lawyer or a witness, or improper summoning of witnesses and the like. This time, the reason for postponement was the fact that a witness, who lives in Denmark, failed to appear for, as she stated, personal reasons, but gave consent to the court to use the statement she had previously made to the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office. More important than reasons for the postponement of trials is the fact that such information is not publicized at the website of the Higher Court and the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office. At the Higher Court’s website, in the section dealing with the publicity of court’s work, it is stated that “information on the time, venue and subject matter of the trial are published daily in a visible place in front of the courtroom in which the trial will take place or in another appropriate manner”. At least at the moment, it seems that publishing in a visible or any other place in the internet is not considered the appropriate manner. 

Although the hearing was postponed, five young lawyers attended the war crimes trial for the first time, climbing the stairs to the courtroom number four together with the five accused. And they left the building of the Court with a thought that they probably see people capable of killing someone just for having a different name somewhere in town, because all the accused are free pending trial. 

The next hearing in the Štrpci case is scheduled for March 2 at 9.30.

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