Vecernji List reports on a landmark compensation ruling on events in Sisak in 1991.
Croatia could pay millions of kuna in damages to victims of war crimes committed in Sisak in 1991. In December 2013, Vladimir Milanković, the wartime deputy chief of the Sisak Police Department, was found guilty of these crimes. He was sentenced to eight years in prison for the death of 23 civilians and one prisoner of war, and for illegal detention and torture of about a dozen civilians. Later, the Supreme Court increased his sentence to ten years in prison. The process has continued with numerous lawsuits by families of victims seeking compensation, reports Vecernji List on January 20, 2016.
A few days ago, on 15 January, the Sisak Municipal Court ruled that Croatia must pay a total of 660,000 kuna (86,000 euro) in damages to three family members of Stanko Martinović, who was taken out of his house in Novo Selo near Sisak on 23 September 1991 by four people in uniforms. The disappearance and murder of Martinović was a part of the indictment and verdict against Milanković.
Wife Zahida and sons Dobrivoje and Radivoj will receive 220,000 kuna each. They testified in court about the events in 1991. They knew some of the perpetrators of the crime, and at the Milanković’s trial it was found that these were members of reserve police forces of the Sisak Police Department. At the time of his father’s disappearance, Dobrivoje was 11 years old, while the older brother Radivoj went to the Croatian Army in 1994 and was wounded during Operation Storm in 1995. They were told that their father would be back in half an hour, but the body was found on 27 October 1991 in the Sava river near Bosanski Šabac, with a gunshot wound to the head. He is buried at the cemetery in Bosanski Šamac below a cross with the initials S.M., and the family will use the compensation money to transfer the remains to his hometown.
The Martinović family had already tried to sue the state, citing a law on liability for damages caused by members of the armed and police forces during the Homeland War, but their suits had been rejected because the court ruled that it was a war damage. However, the final judgment against Milanković has helped their cause. That was stated in the latest ruling by Judge Sanda Navara Sladović, and also pointed out by family lawyer Luka Šušak.
“Civil proceedings are related to criminal court proceedings and the judgment must be respected. Therefore, it is now much easier to get compensation, since there is a final judgment in criminal proceedings. Earlier, the Court would interpret this as war damages and would reject the requests, but now that was changed to a war crime, based on the judgment against Milanković. I represent some of the other families of the victims from Milanković’s case, so we expect similar verdicts”, said Šušak.
Since Vladimir Milanković has been convicted for the deaths of 24 people and torture of about a dozen people, it is clear that future lawsuits could cost Croatia about ten million kuna. The state will have to pay the compensation, and the practice so far has been that the state later requests that the convict, in the case Vladimir Milanković, pays the money back to the state.