Fikret Planinčić as Bosnian Dreyfus

The Dayton judiciary sentenced an innocent man to 11 years in prison
Fikret Planinčić is Bosnian Dreyfus

An innocent man will end up in prison, and will serve eleven years of sentence! His name is Fikret Planinčić and he was accused of war crime and tragic events in which he had not participated at all. Neither he pleaded guilty, nor had his guilt proved by any concrete evidence. The only piece of evidence against him included statements that, after 20 years, he was recognized by his voice. He was convicted of the murders of persons of Serb nationality, which took place on 17 September 1992 in the village of Serdari, near Kotor Varoš. It is exactly due to the fact that an innocent man will serve 11 years sentence in prison as a collateral damage of political trading and blackmailing in Dayton judiciary, that the Fikret Planinčić case will become a Bosnian “Dreyfus” Affair, in which recovery and credibility of justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina will depend on defending and release of the innocent man.

In order to completely understand the paradox of this case, irrefutable facts should be recalled that Kotor Varoš is one of the places where Greater Serbian terrorists committed horrible crimes against Bosniak and Croat civilians. 163 non-Serb citizens of Kotor Varoš were killed in the Grabovica camp only, and their bodies are still looked for. The Greater Serbian terrorists killed about 300 citizens of this small municipality and 350 persons are still registered as missing. In the course of the genocidal ethnic cleansing campaign, some 5.000 Bosniaks and Croats were expelled from Kotor Varoš and the vast majority of them undergone camp-based ordeal, torture, rape and plunder. For years, all of that was not sufficient for the Dayton judiciary to bring Kotor Varoš executioners to justice. Instead, the same judiciary gave in to Serbian politics’ pressure aimed at proclaiming the suffering of persons of Serb nationality in war time conflicts a war crime, and at arresting and prosecuting Bosniaks who, in exile, in villages surrounding Kotor Varoš, defended their families.

What happened? For days the Republika Srpska Army kept shelling the villages of Večići  and Bilice where Bosniaks, expelled from Kotor Varoš, had found shelter. The only way to prevent the artillery horror imposed on Bosniak civilians in these refugee villages was an attempt of poorly armed members of Territorial Defence unit to neutralize the artillery weapons in the Serdari village. At the dawn on 17 September an attack ensued on the Serb artillery in Serdari and, given that the attack was sudden, an armed resistance was provided by women and the elderly. 16 persons of Serb nationality periled in exchange of fire, among them two children. Prosecutor’s Office interpreted a notion of a military target in a propensive manner and held that “police officers and the local defence guards did not lose the status of civilians” concluding that “this also related to an armed person defending his family”. By the same logic, Bosniaks who attacked Serdari village, in order to protect their families against shelling incoming from the village, could also be considered civilians.

An immense pressure exerted on judiciary by the Serb public in 2011 resulted in arrests of Fikret Planinčić, Rasim Lišančić, Sead Menzil and Mirsad Vatrač. As the first instance Court committed significant violations of criminal proceedings, the Appellate Chamber of the Court of BiH repealed the Judgement of the Court of BiH of 31 January 2014 convicting all four persons to sentences ranging from 9.5 to 11.5 years of imprisonment. Even then it was obvious that the mentors of this rigged trial preferred at any cost the overemphasized war crime judgement to truth as it was established that ” an incomprehensible judgement was delivered without factual description of the offence, including the actions, time and place of execution and the consequences that ensued”. The Appellate Chamber stated that “the first instance Court did not specify what each of the accused concretely did during the assault on the village, which is contrary to the individual criminal responsibility principle” and ordered a new trial. In the course of the new trial, Menzil and Vatrač were acquitted, Lišančić died in the meantime, and the burden of the indictment was thrust upon Fikret Planinčić who was sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment on charges of killing nine persons and inflicting injuries on two – in spite of the fact that he was not present in the village of Serdari on that particular morning.

On what grounds, then, the Court based the judgement finding Fikret Planinčić guilty of all these killings? Fikret Planinčić testified that, at that time, he had been on an assignment in the Čirkino Hill area, Podbrdalje point, and that, therefore, he was not in Serdari village at all, as he was not the member of the intervention unit comprising the most capable fighters. By legal and any other logic, the Court should have had ample evidence against the defendant in order to sentence him for such a large number of murders and so many years of imprisonment. And what is it that the Court does really have? Nothing! Nothing, exactly! On a number of points, the Statement of Grounds refers to witnesses who, all of them – 20 years later!!! – recognized Planinčić “by his voice”. Here’s a quote: “The witness stated that she was not able to recognize him in the Courtroom and she did recognize him when she heard his voice that, according to her estimate, was the same as from before the war, very characteristic”. Here’s another quote: “Fikret Planinčić’s defence tried to contest the statement given by the Court’s witnesses Radmila Serdar and Joco Serdar who, as stated above, claimed to have recognized Fikret Planinčić by the characteristic voice”. Here’s the third quote: “The defence witness, Raza Smajlović , recognized the defendant in the Courtroom, after so many years, by his voice exactly rather than by his physical appearance, which undoubtedly suggests that the defendant had had a characteristic voice at the time as he does now”. It is unbelievable that the Court still has no factual description of the criminal offence, as the case was with the first instance judgement, and that it is repeating the same mistake, but now putting the complete blame on Fikret Planinčić for whom, there – it was established “based on his voice” –  that he had been in Serdari and that he had killed nine people!

This volume of triviality, arbitrariness, judicial sloppiness and arrogance, with the aim of imposing criminal responsibility without physical evidence, “based on voice characteristics”, has probably not been seen in the history of the Dayton judiciary at least. It is for that reason exactly that the case of Fikret Planinčić must be a turning point in the Dayton judiciary that is not able to defend its honour and fairness if carrying such a case with it into the future – that a completely innocent man serves 11 years sentence in prison due to the trial so obviously rigged. That is the reason why Fikret Planinčić is Bosnian Alfred Dreyfus, a man convicted in a rigged trial. The great Emile Zola advocated for Dreyfus in his open letter entitled “J’accuse“, whereas no one did so for Fikret Planinčić, except a few friends and neighbours from Perin Han, a Zenica local municipality. Fikret Planinčić’s fight for freedom has just started having a quite certain outcome, just as the Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus was given back his freedom and satisfaction. In fact, it is mostly the fallen and compromised Dayton judiciary, rather than he himself, that needs justice for Fikret Planinčić.

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