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Drago Josipovic
Drago Josipovic

Drago Josipovic is a Bosnian Croat who came back to live in his home village of Ahmici after serving eight years of a twelve year jail sentence handed down in The Hague by the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Josipovic, a former chemical factory worker and resident of Ahmici-Santici, was found guilty of crimes against humanity by the ICTY in January 2000. The court found that while serving in the regular Bosnian Croatian army (HVO-BiH) Josipovic took part in the Ahmici massacre. On 16 April 1993, a surprise attack on the village killed 116 Bosniaks , including 32 women and 11 children.

Drago Josipovic was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for his part in the killing of fellow resident Musafer Puscul and the burning of the Puscul family home.

 
Drago Josipovic at ICTY - Drago Josipovic in Ahmici's Catholic cemetery

Josipovic has always denied that he committed war crimes. He maintains that he tried to help Muslim friends that day.

His appeal was rejected by the ICTY, though his sentence was reduced to 12 years. After his release in February 2006, Josipovic moved back to his house in Ahmici-Santici. He has never had a problem with any of the villagers since, although some of them refuse to speak to him.

"When I came, there were some 2,000 - 3,000 people waiting for me who knew that I had been innocent, that I was in prison for nothing."

Many Bosniaks in the village think that Josipovic is innocent. A neighbour testified that Drago Josipovic had actually saved her husband's life, and that he had taken her and her husband to another house to receive shelter for a night. Local café owner Mehmed Ahmic, joined by a few friends, collected signatures supporting Drago Josipovic's claim of innocence. In total 27 Ahmici residents have signed a petition supporting a motion for a review of Josipovic's case. This petition was rejected by ICTY in 2004, however.

Josipovic says the Bosnian Croat Military Police, which has been identified by the ICTY as the military formation chiefly responsible for carrying out the massacre, should be held responsible.

"In my view it was the Croat military police. And they are the only ones who can say who gave the order…"

International ICTY war crimes investigators have hard tried to pinpoint who was responsible. However, it has been difficult to determine what exactly happened, and to establish beyond reasonable doubt the identity of perpetrators, most of whom were wearing masks during the killing.

Josipovic's conviction was based on the statements of a single witness, underlining the difficulty of establishing the facts after such a horrific event. The sentence handed to Vlatko Kupreskic, another Bosnian Croat from Ahmici who has returned to the village – his was another case involving a single witness – was later overturned by the ICTY's appeals chamber.

June 2008

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