Mensur Memic

08.05.2016 ( Last modified: 29.01.2018 )
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facts

Mensur Memic, known as Menta, was born on 28 June 1966 in Prijedor, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is a former member of the Special Purposes Detachment, known as “Zulfikar unit” within the Headquarters of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It is alleged that on 16 April 1993 “the Zulfikar” unit attacked Trusina, a village located in the municipality of Konjic in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and inhabited by Croats and Bosniaks.

The confrontation between Zulfikar soldiers and the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) during the attack resulted in 18 civilians killed and four injured, including two children. The civilians were killed in their homes and in the street.

Moreover, four Croat fighters were killed in the course of the day in various locations in the village. According to the indictment, Memic participated in the killing of HVO soldiers who were lined-up after they had surrendered and were shot dead.

Memic was arrested on 17 September 2009 and has been in custody since then.

legal procedure

Memic was arrested on 17 September 2009 and has been in custody since then. According to the indictment, confirmed on 11 March 2010, he participated in a planned and prepared attack on Trusina village on 16 April 1993. Specifically, the indictment alleges that on that day Memic, together with other members of Zulfikar Unit, participated in the shooting of HVO members, thus committing war crimes against civilians and war crimes against prisoners of war.

The trial began on 8 September 2010. Six defendants, Mensur Memic, Dzevad Salcin, Nedzad Hodzic, Hihad Bojadzic, Senad Hakalovic and Zulfikar Alispago, were charged with participation in the crime.

More than 70 witnesses testified for the Prosecution, and the Prosecutor tendered around 350 pieces of material evidence. Some of the witnesses were granted protective measures, including closed hearings in relation to part of their testimonies.

During the trial, surviving victims testified about the mistreatment of women and children, along with fierce shooting and the killing of men upon the arrival of Zulfikar soldiers to Trusina. More than one member of the unit, who had taken part in the attack on the village, testified in favour of the Prosecution.

Memic pleaded not guilty, claiming that he had not participated in the operation in the area of Trusina and he did not have any knowledge about the attack until September 2009 when he was arrested. He joined the unit on 7 April 1993 and there was a rule that new members could not be sent into combat until they became familiar with all fellow soldiers. Memic testified that his first combat experience with the Zulfikar unit was in the village of Repovici, a few days after the attack in Trusina.

Memic presented a witness, a former cook with the Zulfikar unit, who testified that on the day of the attack she saw the defendant in the Mraziste hotel on Mount Igman, which was the unit’s headquarters. Nevertheless, several of Memic’s former fellow soldiers testified regarding his presence in Trusina on that day.

On 8 February 2013 the Court issued a decision terminating custody of Memic but imposing house arrest and a travel ban on him.

In its closing arguments, the Defence asked for an acquittal of Memic.  The trial is ongoing.

context

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

The conflict in former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 1999, shocked international public opinion because of the abuses revealed by the press, which were committed by all parties to the conflict (massacres, forced displacements of population, concentration camps …). The conflict is considered to consist of several separate conflicts, which were ethnic in nature – the war in Slovenia (1991), the war in Croatia (1991-1995), the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995) and the war Kosovo (1998-1999), which also involved the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

The conflicts accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia, when the constituent republics declared their independence. The wars mostly ended after peace accords were signed, and new republics were given full international recognition of their statehood.

In order to restore peace and security in the region, the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of UN Charter, created on 25 May 1993, by Resolution 827, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). It was determined that pursuant to numerous reports of, among other, mass killings, systematic detention, rapes, practice of “ethnic cleansing”, transfers, etc., these acts constituted a threat to international peace and security, necessitating a reaction by Security Council. As the Tribunal was created during the ongoing conflict, the Security Council expressed its hopes that ICTY would contribute to halting violations in the region. Its headquarters are in The Hague, Netherlands.

The Tribunal has jurisdiction to prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law – grave breaches of Geneva Conventions, violations of laws and customs of war, genocide and crimes against humanity – allegedly committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia after 1 January 1991, (no end date was specified). Since its creation, the ICTY has indicted more than 160 people, including heads of states and government members.

The Tribunal’s mandate was originally meant to expire on 31 December 2009, but the Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the Court with several judges, including permanent judges, so that the ongoing trials can be completed. According to the “ICTY Completion Strategy Report” from 18 May 2011, all trials were supposed to be completed by the end of 2012, and all the appeals by the end of 2015. The exceptions were cases of Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic.

The Security Council adopted resolution 1966 on 22 December 2010, establishing International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. The ICTY residual mechanism began functioning on 1 July 2013.

The Tribunal was called to finish its work by the end of 2014, in order to prepare closure and transfer of cases to the Residual Mechanism. The Mechanism is a small and temporary body, which plays important role in ensuring that the completion strategy of ICTY does not result in impunity of fugitives and in injustice. It is conducting all outstanding first instance trials, including those of Karadzic, Mladic and Hadzic. It is also to complete all appeals proceedings that were filed before 1 July 2013.

The ICTY is not the only court with jurisdiction to try alleged perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the former Yugoslavia. The Tribunal has concurrent jurisdiction with national courts. However, it takes precedence over them and may require the referral from the national court at any stage of the proceedings (Article 9 of the ICTY Statute). The Statute does not elaborate how the primacy is to be exercised, but it was asserted by the judges of the ICTY in the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. The primacy can be asserted in three cases: when an international crime is intentionally or unwittingly prosecuted before national court as an “ordinary criminal offence”, when a national court is unreliable, or when the case is closely related, or may be relevant to other cases being tried by the ICTY.

NATIONAL JURISDICTIONS

National courts also have jurisdiction to prosecute alleged perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law.

In the former Yugoslavia, the trials of those accused of war crimes have been opened by the courts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Section for War Crimes was set up in the Criminal and Appellate Divisions of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Special Chamber for War Crimes has jurisdiction to prosecute the most serious alleged war crimes committed in Bosnia, and was created to relieve the ICTY, so that it can focus on criminals of high rank. Its establishment was also considered necessary for effective war crimes prosecution in Bosnia. The opening of the Special Chamber was on 9 March 2005.

Additionally, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1244 from 10 June 1999, UN administration was created in Kosovo. Consequently, in 2000 “Regulation 64” Panels in Courts of Kosovo were created, which are mixed chambers at the local courts. They have two international judges and one national. These panels work in collaboration with the ICTY. They have jurisdiction over those responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. They focus on prosecuting lower ranking offenders.

In Serbia, the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor was established on 1 July 2003. It was created to detect and prosecute perpetrators of criminal offenses against humanity and international law, and offences recognised by the ICTY Statute, regardless of the nationality, citizenship, race or religion of the perpetrator and the victim, as long as the acts were committed on the territory of former Yugoslavia after 1 January 1991. Its seat is in Belgrade, Serbia.

Other relevant national jurisdictions are under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows states with a specific legal basis, to try perpetrators of serious crimes regardless of their nationality or that of the victims and regardless of where the crime was committed.