by Vladimir MATIJANIC
According to reliable sources, the war crime suspects charged with crimes committed in military prison Lora will soon be released from custody; after an appeal by the State Prosecutor, the Supreme Court will send the case to a different judge or even court for retrial.
The choice of Slavko Lozina for the presiding judge in the trial was ideal for those who sought that sort of outcome; his errors in the courtroom are already well known, the worst one definitely his order that suspects be released from custody, after which two of the defendants failed to return to the courtroom, joining the chief suspect Tomislav Duic who is yet to be arrested and taken to the courtroom. Furthermore, Lozina has for months been postponing questioning of witnesses, 14 former prisoners kept in Lora, who now live in the part of Bosnia-Hercegovina known as the Republic of Srpska. Even the official Croatian Army documents confirm that these witnesses were indeed kept as prisoners in Lora, but the court has been reluctant to seriously deal with their testimonies about the horrors they experienced in Lora. Moreover, in the courtroom we could hear pearls of wisdom such as that those testimonies should be dismissed since witnesses were members of the Chetnik [derogatory term for Serbs] army, and therefore cannot give reliable testimony.
Regarding Lozina's importance in this trial, we should recall the episode concerning his refusal to judge the case. Namely, a few months ago Lozina announced that he was withdrawing from the trial. That day he was visited in his office in the courthouse by Miljan Sesar, then a HDZ member and today the head of Pasalic's Croat Block for Split-Dalmacija county. Sesar spent a whole hour with Lozina, and after that Zeljko Olujic [one of defense attorneys] also visited Lozina, even though no hearing was scheduled for that day. Somehow, Lozina changed his mind and continued as a presiding judge in the case.
And he is still conducting the trial in such a fashion that we should not be surprised if the remaining defendants were declared for saints and released from prison with apologies. Witnesses mostly cannot recall anything, or refer to the statements given during the investigation. All those who do remember crimes committed in Lora talk about numerous and serious threats, and already infamous Split Police, which simply cannot or does not want to find persons who are threatening to kill all witnesses of crimes committed in Lora, either over the phone or personally, is contributing to general atmosphere of fear and insecurity.
And while witnesses who confirm charges from the indictment feel as an endangered species, defendants and their attorneys do not have reasons to be concerned. Thus, even the recent visit of the court council, defense and prosecution representatives to Lora passed in a relaxed and merry atmosphere; defense attorneys wondered where the dog house in which some prisoners had allegedly been kept was, and how come there were no fire hydrants next to which prisoners allegedly washed cars of some prison wardens, while some even ventured to assert that the building of the former military prison - which by the way was not rebuilt or modified during the last ten years - simply could not hold many prisoners.
One of the problems is consistent refusal of the witnesses currently living in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to appear in court, in which they are surprisingly supported by some human rights organizations from Split. Appearance of at least one witness from Yugoslavia, who would be free to testify since he would not be facing threats as local witnesses, would definitely prevent that the whole trial slide into banality. However, it seems that that will not happen.
Whatever the case, defendants will probably soon be released, while the responsibility of individuals such as Mate Lausic, Military Police commander, and Tvrtko Pasalic, eminence grise of the prison in Lora, will not be addressed. That means that, even if the direct perpetrators are found guilty and sentenced in the foreseeable future, their superiors will continue being pillars of society that, it appears, has the strength only to finish off terrified witnesses, but no strength to finish off crimes.