By Alexandra Halsey-Storch
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina – On Thursday November 10, Bosnia’s War Crimes Court sentenced Bosnian Serb Sasa Baricanin to 18 years imprisonment for the murder of a family, rape and enslavement during the 1990s Balkan War.
Baricanin was an accomplice to Beselin Vlahovic’s atrocities. Together, the two broke into a family apartment in the Serb-controlled Grbavica district in July 1992. They removed a husband, wife and son from their apartment, bringing them out, behind their home where the two shot the family, mercilessly, until dead.
According to the verdict, another female was left in the apartment at the time of the invasion that ended in the three innocent deaths. Thereafter, Baricanin “kept her enslaved, raped her for several days and brought another person to rape her.”
Enida Hadziomerovic, chairwoman of the court counsel stated in the verdict that, “Defendant Sasa Baricanin committed war crimes against the civilian non-Serb population in the city of Sarajevo,”
On the outcome of the case, Margot Wallstrom, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict said that “this case is yet another testament to the resilience of Bosnian women who have joined forces in their quest for justice, both within and beyond the courtroom.” Wallstrom went on to say that, “the verdict sent a strong signal that justice must ultimately prevail for victims of sexual violence.”
Despite the truly justice-achieving verdict, this case is only one instance of tens of thousands of rapes that occurred during the War. It is estimated that about 50,000 rapes occurred during the war years yet there have been only 30 convictions for this heinous crime, to date. “While it is a positive step that the War Crimes Court in Sarajevo has reached this verdict, the pace of justice for sexual violence survivors has been painfully slow.”
Baricanin was a member of the Bosnian Serb Kosevo Battalion which occupied Sarajevo neighborhoods of Grbavica and Vraca—two towns located in Sarajevo. During his time in the battalion, he worked with Veselin Vlahovic, also known as Batko.
Batko is currently on trial for some of the most brutal treatment of civilians in Sarajevo in 1992 and 1993.
In related news, on Thursday, Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb ex- army chief told the former Yugoslav war crimes court, via a signed letter, that he was too ill to attend a scheduled court hearing. The letter stated that he was unable to attend “due to illness” and that he waived his “right to be present” and gave his “consent for the proceedings to continue” without him.
According to Mladic’s attorney, Branko Lukic, his client’s health was, indeed, “very serious” and that he had to utilize a wheelchair to move about.
The Tribunal Judge Alphons Orie said in response to Mladic’s letter that, “because of the medical issues brought to chamber’s attention during the last few days, it is considering ordering a medical report addressing the medical picture of the accused’s health.”
Mladic is accused of “masterminding the murder of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys at Screbrenica in July 1995.” Should all go according to plan, his trial will begin sometime in 2012.
AFP – Mladic Says Too Ill to Attend War Crimes Court Hearing – 10 November 2011
The Washington Post – War Crimes Court Send Bosnian Serb to Jail for 18 Years for Murder and Rape – 10 November 2011
Reuters – Serb Given 18 Years For Murder and Rape in Bosnian War – 9 November 2011
United Nations – UN Envoy Welcomes Conviction for Rape and Murder During Bosnian Conflict – 9 November 2011