‘Monster of Grbavica’ Sentenced to Maximum 45 Years

By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina – On Friday, a war-crimes court in Bosnia- Herzegovina handed down its longest sentence yet of 45 years for the crimes committed by Veselin Vlahovic, 44, during the 1992-1995 Balkan conflict, which killed some 100,000 people and left some 2 million refugees.  Vlahovic, nicknamed “Batko” was a former member of the Bosnian Serb paramilitary forces “White Angels,” allied to the Bosnian Serb Army, and was known to his victims as the “Monster of Grbavica” and “Master of Life and Death.”

Known as the ‘Monster of Grbavica’ for his 1992 killing rampage during the Bosnian War, Veselin Vlahovic has received the maximum sentence of 45 years in prison. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

Prosecutors presented the court with a 66-count indictment against Vlahovic, which was also the most extensive list for 1992-95 Bosnian war crimes.  Prosecutor Behaija Krnjic said of the indictments, during his closing arguments, “He killed 31 people, took 14 people who have still been considered missing, raped 13 women,” having earlier stated Vlahovic’s “name was the synonym for evil”.  Vlahovic pled “not guilty.”

In a verdict that took two hours to read, Vlahovic was found guilty on 60 of the counts (and acquitted on 6 due to lack of evidence) for 31 murders, rapes of at least 13 women and torture and robbery of dozens of civilians in Grbavica and Vraca, Serb-occupied areas of Sarajevo, in 1992.

The verdict drew loud applause from victims’ associations in the heavily guarded and packed courtroom, while Vlahovic sat emotionless through the proceedings.  Earlier, he had insulted a witness, a local journalist who reported on his crimes during the war, and according to the prosecution, sent an intimidating letter to a victim’s family.

The 45-year sentence is the maximum that can be given for such crimes.  Bosnia-Herzegovina does not practice indefinite imprisonment or the death penalty.  Both sides intend to appeal.  Although the prosecution received the maximum sentence as requested, it wishes to readdress some of the specific points of the verdict.

Vlahovic is from Montenegro, which was united with Serbia during the Balkan wars.  During the war, many Montenegrins supported the Serbs against the Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Kosovo Albanians.

Judge Bozic said Vlahovic’s horrific acts took place between May and July 1992 in three districts of Sarajevo controlled by Serb forces – Grbavica, Kovacici, and Vraca.  The judge graphically described several of Vlahovic’s crimes.

Bozic said Vlahovic would often demand ransoms of money or gold for his captives and, “Victims who could not pay for their lives would be typically taken to a recognizable location on Trebevic hill and shot in the head.”

“It was a typical pattern [of his] behavior.  Those who had nothing to offer in turn for their lives were typically killed by a shot in the forehead, mouth or temporal bone, according to forensic accounts,” said Judge Bozic.

In one particularly brutal example, “In June 1992, he forced 13 members of the Pecar family out of their home and ordered three male relatives to run across a front line street planted with mines.”  Vlahovic ordered his soldiers to open fire, which he knew would result in return fire from the combat lines.  In the cross-fire, one woman died and three family members, including a girl, were wounded and left on the street.

Judge Bozic further described Vlahovic’s rape of a seven month pregnant woman in front of her young daughter in their apartment, and another sequential rape in which Vlahovic raped a daughter and then her mother as the daughter was forced to watch.

Judge Bozic concluded that Vlahovic carried out “horrid, cruel and manifold criminal acts”.

Vlahovic has been sent to prison before, only to escape.  12 years ago in Montenegro, he was jailed for robbery, but went on the lam.  He then hid in Spain under a Bulgarian passport until 2010 when he was arrested and extradited in August to Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Vlahovic is also wanted for armed robbery in Spain, and murder in Serbia.

Perhaps this time, the monster will stay locked away.

For further information, please see:

24 Sata – FOTO: Tužilaštvo i odbrana ulažu žalbe na presudu Veselinu Vlahoviću [PHOTO: Prosecution and Defense are Appealing the Veselin Vlahovic Ruling] – 29 March 2013

24 Sata –  VIDEO / Maksimalna kazna za “Monstruma sa Grbavice”: Batko osuđen na 45 godina [VIDEO / The Maximum Penalty for the “Monster of Grbavica”: Batko Sentenced to 45 Years] – 29 March 2013

Al Jazeera – Bosnia’s ‘Monster of Grbavica’ Gets 45 Years – 29 March 2013

BBC News – Bosnia Jails Serb Veselin Vlahovic for War Crimes – 29 March 2013

RFE/RL – Bosnia’s ‘Monster of Grbavica’ Gets 45 Years For War Crimes – 29 March 2013

Sky News – Warlord ‘Batko’ Jailed For Sarajevo Killings – 29 March 2013

Angola Breaks Up Peaceful Youth Protest and Detains 18

By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

LUANDA, Angola – Angolan police arrested rallyists who were holding a demonstration in the capital on Saturday.


Considered as Africa’s second-longest serving head of state, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has been in power for more than three decades. (Photo courtesy of BBC News/AFP)

18 activists were brought into police custody. Two of them were later released without charge while the others remain in prison.

Held near the Santa Ana cemetery, just meters away from the Luanda police headquarters, the protest aimed to pressure the government to recognize and uphold the “dignity and the right to life for those who think differently”. Protesters demanded answers over the disappearance of two government critics, Alves Cassule and Isaias Kamulingue, who have been missing since last year.

“We have already waited too long, Cassule and Kamulingue waited too long . . . and so many others that are being pushed into the limbo of oblivion, citizens who do not even enjoy the posthumous right of investigation to cast light on the events that led to their physical disappearances,” said one of the rallyists.

“We will continue to push until they reappear or the truth is told,” Adolfo Campos, another protester told AFP.

Saturday’s protest was also meant to express the public’s dissatisfaction towards the administration of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos who has been the country’s ruler since 1979. Activists at the rally accused the President of “mismanaging Angola’s oil revenues, suppressing human rights and doing too little to end corruption and poverty.”

According to Central Angola 7311, the organizers of the demonstration, they ensured that the rally met all legal requirements before carrying it out. “The protest, which fulfilled all legal requirements, was the target of the usual repression by the regime, using the Angolan police,” the youth protest movement posted on its Twitter feed.

In their defense, however, the police told the press that the protesters were causing “embarrassment and indignation” to those who were preparing for funerals at the nearby cemetery.

Nevertheless, local human rights groups denounced the way the police handled the situation. “It is sad to see the police use such violence against young people who are demonstrating peacefully,” said Jose Patricinio, the president of an Angolan human rights group. He added that staging a rally is a constitutionally guaranteed right which law enforcers must respect.

A few days before the protest, the U.N. Rights Committee expressed its concerns about reports of the disappearances of protesters in Luanda for the past two years, urging the government to “take practical steps to put an end to impunity by its security forces regarding arbitrary and extrajudicial killings and disappearances.”


For further information, please see:

Africa Review – Angola police break up protest over missing youths – 31 March 2013

Independent Online News – Angolan cops break up youth protest – 31 March 2013

Global Voices Online – Angola: Arrested and Disappeared for “Thinking Differently” – 31 March 2013

News 24 – Angolan police detain 18 – 31 March 2013

Global Post – Police break up youth protest in Angola – 30 March 2013

Reuters – Angola police detain 18 at rights rally: activists – 30 March 2013

TSF – Angolan police confirm arrest of 12 people organizing demonstration speech – 30 March 2013

Egyptian Jon Stewart Released on Bail

By Dylan Takores
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East


CAIRO, Egypt – Egyptian authorities released satirist Bassem Youssef on bail after questioning him for allegedly degrading Islam, insulting President Morsi, and spreading false news.

Bassem Youssef. (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Youssef, often referred to as the Egyptian Jon Stewart, voluntarily turned himself in to police after a warrant was issued for his arrest.  He was questioned for five hours then released for 15,000 Egyptian pounds (approximately $2,190).

The government also issued arrest warrants for four other prominent anti-government activists in addition to Youssef.  The activists are accused of inciting violence and anti-government sentiments among Egyptian citizens.

The arrest raised questions regarding freedom of speech under the current political regime.  Youssef hosts a weekly talk show, “Al-Bernameg” (“The Show”), on which he mocks Egyptian politics. The satirist often imitates the President as well as members of opposition parties.

In a statement to Ahram, the prosecutor, Mohammed el-Sayed Khalifa, reported that the case is a civil action brought on behalf of twelve plaintiffs.  The plaintiffs alleged that Youssef insulted President Morsi, denigrated Islam, mocked prayers, spread false news, and intended to incite public disorder.

International Business Times reported that the charges carry heavy penalties in Egypt.  The Egyptian Constitution, drafted in 2011, permits a sentence of up to three-years imprisonment for insulting the president.  However, despite the serious nature of the crimes in Egypt, IBT wrote that the charges would not likely be successful or even pursued in less conservative countries.

Supporters of Youssef gathered outside the prosecutor’s office in solidarity with the satirist during his detention.  During an interview on CBC, Youssef denied the allegations.  He explained, “We don’t insult religion.  What we do is expose those so-called religious and Islamic stations which have offended Islam more than anyone else.”

Youssef tweeted several sarcastic and satirical remarks while in the prosecutor’s office.  One tweet quipped, “They asked me the color of my eyes. Really.”  He also tweeted that the bail money will pay for three separate pending charges.

Youssef’s defense lawyer, Montasser al-Zayyat firmly denied the charges against his client.  In addition to the three stated charges – insulting President Morsi, ridiculing Islam, and reporting false news – the attorney reported that Youssef has been accused of a fourth unannounced charge.


For further information, please see:

Ahram – Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef released on LE 15,000 bail – 31 March 2013

BBC News – Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef released on bail – 31 March 2013

Huffington Post – Bassem Youssef, Egypt’s Jon Stewart, Released on Bail – 31 March 2013

International Business Times – Bassem Youssef, Egypt’s Version of Jon Stewart, Released on Bail – 31 March 2013

Buddhist Monks Attack Muslim-Owned Warehouse in Sri Lanka

By Karen Diep           
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – On Thursday, hundreds of Buddhist monks threw stones at a Muslim-owned warehouse injuring several people in Colombo. The incident occurred a day after Sri Lankan authorities set up a hot-line informing them of anyone “inciting religious or racial hatred.”

Sri Lankan Police standing in front of the warehouse. (Photo Courtesy of France 24)

Televised news covered showed broken glass and clothing from the warehouse scattered in the street. Although five or six people were injured, including the store manager and journalists, no arrests have been made.

According to BBC News, this recent event by the monks was part of their campaign against the “Muslim lifestyle.”

The Buddhist monks targeted a Muslim-owned clothing chain, Fashion Bug, which operates throughout Sri Lanka.

According to France 24, the monks throughout the assault “yelled insults against Muslims.”

Prior to Thursday’s attack, these Buddhist monks sent texts advising people to boycott Muslim shops when preparing for the upcoming Sri Lankan New Year festival.

On Friday, Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), the most prominent Buddhist organization, issued a statement claiming that it was not involved in Thursday’s attack against the warehouse. Two weeks ago prior to the assault, BBS’s general secretary accused Fashion Bug and No Limit, another Muslim-owned clothing chain, of converting Buddhist employees.

Eyewitnesses claimed that Sri Lankan authorities initially stood and watched the event until the incident spread.

“There was a crowd of about 500 people, led by about a dozen monks,” stated Azzam Ameen, a journalist in Colombo. “About 25 to 30 policemen were on the scene, but were clearly overwhelmed. Most of the crowd was made up of young men, in their early twenties or even younger,” continued Mr. Ameen.

The attack allegedly lasted approximately an hour and a half before the fire brigade arrived.  However, many took refuge in the Buddhist temple across the street to continue hurling stones at the warehouse from there.

However, Sri Lankan authorities believed sufficient protection existed.

“We have deployed extra units of STR [Special Task Force commandos] and police to guard the area,” relayed police spokesman Buddhika Siriwardena to the Agence France-Presse news agency. “The situation was brought under control within a few hours,” continued Mr. Siriwardena.  

Sri Lanka’s Minister for Justice Rauff Hakeem, a Muslim, requested that the prime minister call a crucial cabinet meeting to plan the safety and security for Muslims subsequent to the assault on Thursday.

Sanjana Hattotuaw, a human rights activists and journalist, is weary of the government response. “What’s disturbing is that our defense secretary is openly associating with Buddhist extremists.”

For further information, please see:

Asia News – Sri Lanka, hundreds of radical Buddhist attack Islamic community – 29 March 2013

BBC News – Sri Lanka crowd attack Muslim warehouse in Colombo – 29 March 2013

France 24 News – Sri Lanka police stand by as Buddhist monks attack Muslim-owned store – 29 March 2013





DRC: UN Security Council Approves Unprecedented “Intervention Brigade”

By Hannah Stewart
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

UNITED NATIONS — On Thursday, the UN Security Council approved the creation of a unique new combat force that will conduct “targeted offensive operations” to neutralize armed groups in conflict-torn eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Recently displaced Congolese refugees at a camp in South Kivu. (Photo Courtesy of The New York Times)

By way of response, the Congolese government has welcomed the UN’s decision in hopes of subduing rebel groups along its border with Rwanda.  Spokesman Lambert Mende said the brigade of at least 2,000 troops would “bring some hope of peace.”

This is the first time any UN peacekeeping force has been given such an offensive mandate.  However, the ongoing conflict in the DRC has seen various armed groups creating havoc in the mineral-rich eastern region for two decades.

The brigade will be part of the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC.  At present, the UN has more than 17,700 peacekeepers and more than 1,400 international police in the DRC; however, they have been accused of not doing enough to stop the violence in the eastern provinces.  The latest rebellion, from 2012 to present, has displaced an estimated 800,000 people in the DRC from their homes.

The UN Security Council resolution stated that the new Intervention Brigade will “carry out targeted offensive operations” to “neutralize” armed groups. In July, forces will be deployed and will include troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi.

The resolution will give the brigade a mandate to operate “in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner” to ensure that armed groups cannot seriously threaten government authority or the security of civilians.

UN peacekeepers were unable to protect civilians from M23 rebels, whose movement began in April 2012 when hundreds of troops defected from the Congolese armed forces.  Likewise, the resolution strongly condemns the continued presence of the M23 in the immediate vicinity of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, and its attempts to establish “an illegitimate parallel administration in North Kivu.

Moreover, the Resolution demands that the M23 and other armed groups, including those seeking the “liberation” of Rwanda and Uganda, immediately halt all violence and “permanently disband and lay down their arms.”  It also strongly condemns their continuing human rights abuses including summary executions, sexual violence and the continued conscripting and use of children.

But the resolution states clearly that it will be established for one year “on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent or any prejudice to the agreed principles of peacekeeping.”  The resolution, sponsored by France, the United States and Togo, says the “intervention brigade” must have “a clear exit strategy.”

It says the Security Council will determine its continued presence based on its performance and according to whether the DRC has made sufficient progress in improving its security.  Moreover, the Congolese are set to form a “rapid reaction force” that can assume responsibility for neutralizing armed groups and reducing the threat they pose to civilians and the government’s authority.

The resolution extends the mission’s mandate until March 31, 2014, and the brigade will be headquartered in Goma.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – UN Approves DR Congo “Intervention Brigade” – 29 March 2013

BBC – DR Hails UN Attack Force – 29 March 2013

Reuters – U.N. Approves New Combat Force to “Neutralize” Congo Rebels – 28 March 2013

The New York Times – U.N. Approves New Force to Pursue Congo’s Rebels – 29 March 2013