Božidar Kuvelja sentenced to 20 years in prison
(14.01.2013. 12:44)

The Trial Panel of Section I for War Crimes of the Court of BiH, having held a trial in the Božidar Kuvelja case, on 11 January 2013 handed down a first-instance verdict, finding Božidar Kuvelja guilty of the criminal offense of Crimes against Humanity under Article 172(1) h) (Persecution) of the BiH Criminal Code (CC BiH) as read with Subparagraphs a) (Murder) and d) (Forcible Transfer of Population), all in conjunction with Article 29 of the same law, and sentenced him to 20 years of imprisonment.


At the same time, the trial panel issued a decision to extend the custody of the accused Kuvelja, so that it can last for a maximum of nine months, until 11 October 2013.


Kuvelja was found guilty because, over a period between 6 and 19 July 1995, during a widespread and systematic attack carried out by the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) and the Republika Srpska Ministry of Interior (MUP RS), aimed against the civilian Bosniak population of the UN safe area of „Srebrenica“, as a police officer of the II Platoon I Company of the Jahorina Special Police Brigade Training Center (SBP) MUP RS, knowing of the attack and that his actions constitute part of the attack, he committed  the persecution of the Bosniak population of the UN safe area of „Srebrenica“ on ethnic and religious grounds, by way of forcible transfer of population and murder.


Together with other company members, on 12 July 1995 Kuvelja took part in the search of settlements near Potočari, which were hitherto populated by Bosniaks, with the aim to round up Bosniak civilians and take them to a collection center in Potočari, and then, starting from the afternoon hours of 12 July until late afternoon hours of 13 July 1995, together with other members of the I Company and other units of the MUP RS and VRS, he placed women, children and the elderly into buses and trucks, in order to force them to a territory under the R BiH Army control, while the Bosniak men, civilians – more than 1000 of them, including underage boys and elderly persons, were separated, having been deprived of personal belongings, including personal documents, money and items of value, kicked and hit with rifle butts, and then taken to a nearby „white house“, secured by members of the Jahorina Training Center, from where the captured Bosniak men were bused, first to Bratunac, and then to execution sites throughout the Zvornik municipality.


In the evening hours of 13 July 1995, together with members of the Jahorina Training center, knowing of the ongoing killing of the Bosniak men, at the location of the ZZ Kravica warehouse and along the Bratunac-Konjević Polje road, with the aim to capture and liquidate Bosniak men, by shooting from automatic weapons and throwing hand grenades, Kuvelja continued with the killing of the survived Bosniak men at the warehouse, as well as those who tried to escape. On the following day, in the morning hours, after the survived captives, dozens of them, were previously lured by deception to get out of the warehouse, they were lined up in several rows and ordered to kneel down, and were then shot by Božidar Kuvelja, who fired from a machine gun, and by others, who fired from automatic rifles. After the execution of all prisoners was completed, members of the unit, with the aim to leave no survivors behind, shot again those who were still alive, whose dead bodies were then covered by hay in order to hide the execution, and when the transport of the dead bodies began, members of the Training Center shot dead one of the survivors who tried to escape.




A person shall be considered innocent of a crime until guilt has been established by a final Verdict. (Article 3 of the CPC BiH)


A First Instance Panel makes a decision on the basis of the evidence which was presented at the trial by the Prosecution and the Defence. The First Instance Panel pronounces its Verdict based on the evidence at trial which must be established beyond a reasonable doubt in order for a guilty Verdict to occur.


This Verdict is not final.  This Verdict may be appealed and an Appeal shall be reviewed by the Appellate Division of the Court.  An Appeal may contain new evidence if the parties to the proceedings and the defence prove that they were not able to present it during the First Instance Proceedings.


Respect for the principle of the presumption of innocence is an integral part of the right to a fair trial.  It is recommended that commentary on a First Instance Panel’s Decision not occur until a final Decision is issued. Opinions and information relating to an ongoing criminal proceeding should only be communicated or disseminated when it does not prejudice the presumption of innocence of the Suspect or the Accused. (Appendix to Recommendation Rec (2993)13 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe of 10 July 2003)     


Should there be commentary on the Decision, it is recommended to obtain any needed additional information from the authorized spokesperson of the Court.  It is further recommended that any commentary also include the opinions of knowledgeable legal scholars and practitioners.




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