location: Medak pocket includes villages Divoselo and Lički Čitluk with all of its hamlets and a part of Počitelj. The area is south of Gospić and it covers a territory of about 50 square kilometres. This is rural area, covered mostly in pastures and woods. According to the 1991 census, in these villages lived 780 inhabitants (344 in Divoselo, 129 in Čitluk, and 307 in Počitelj), of which 92 percent were Serbs. According to 2011 census these three villages were inhabited by 12 inhabitants, four in each. According to the 2001 census the described area had a population of 31, but it is hard to establish whether those who returned had left again, or whether the difference was a result of two different methods applied in the two censuses, or it is the case of dying population because people who had returned were mostly elderly. Whatever the case, this is not only about the fact that there are almost no people there, but that it is hard to imagine sustainable life there since most resources were totally destroyed, and then only marginally reconstructed. Houses are demolished and the woods spread out across once cultivated land, trees are growing even straight from the ruins of houses, wells are contaminated and there is general absence of any preconditions for an even bearable life, especially in Divoselo and Počitelj.
time: from 9 to 17 September 1993
crime description: At 6 a.m. on 9 September 1993, an attack by Croatian forces began, i.e. by the members of the 9th motorised guard brigade and the associated units (Home Guard battalion Lovinac, Home Guard battalion Gospić and the 11th Home Guard regiment) and special police for this area which was thus far controlled by the SAO Krajina army and the associate paramilitary units. After two days of fighting, Croatian forces took control of the area and on 11 September, they rejected a counter-attack, which the 15th Lika corpse of the Serb Military Krajina launched to recapture lost territory. On the first day of action many civilians were killed and/or wounded, the great majority of whom were elderly people, including at least ten women. One woman, blind and aged 84, was killed in her own courtyard. By the end of the operation, i.e. by the time Croatian forces withdrew from the Medak pocket as a consequence of pressure by the international community on the Croatian authorities and an agreement signed on 15 September 1993, at least 28 civilians and 50 soldiers on the Serb side had died. It has to be said that not all soldiers died in combat, but that some were killed after having been taken prisoner and in some cases, grave abuse and torture were proven. At least one civilian victim had their throat cut and there were several undisputed cases where corpses had been burnt. It is certain that almost without exception all victims were Serbs, save for one Croatian woman who was married in Čitluk. After the decision on withdrawal, between 15 and 17 September, Croatian soldiers mined practically all houses which had survived the operation undamaged, livestock was killed and wells with drinking water were contaminated in order to make a return to these villages permanently impossible – i.e. the entire area was “ethnically cleansed”.
information about exhumation and identification of victims: After the operation, the Croatian side handed over the bodies of 52 victims, UNPROFOR members who arrived in the area after 17 September 1993 found another 18 — 11 men and 7 women. Eight men were soldiers, two civilians, one body was of undetermined status, while all women found were civilians. In May 2000, 11 bodies were found in a cesspit in Gospić, in Obradovića Varoš, of whom six were identified as victims from the Medak pocket. To this day, families have not received bodies of eight victims.
In the registry of the missing persons or of those whose remains have not been found are:
- Željko Basara, b. 23 Aug. 1971, father Milan, soldier – went missing on 9 Sept. and 23 Sept. 1993 in Divoselo
- Bosiljka Bjegović, b. 1909 or 1912, father Stevo, civilian – murdered on 9 Sept. 1993 in her courtyard, registered as missing because her body was not buried
- Mile Jovančević, b. 1924, father Avram, soldier – went missing in Divoselo on 9 Sept. 1993.
- Štefica Krajnović, b. 3 March 1931, father Josip, civilian – went missing in Čitluk on 9 Sept. 1993.
- Stevo Pjevač, b. 14 Nov. 1926, father Dane, civilian – went missing in Čitluk on 10 Sept. 1993.
- Momčilo Vujnović, b. 1936, father Dmitar, soldier – killed on 9 Sept 1993, body has not been found.
- Sisters Sara Krčković (b. 1921.) and
- Ljubica Kričković (b. 1929.), father Trivun, killed in the basement of their house in Čitluk, Sara’s throat was cut. Although during the trial against Mirko Norac and Rahim Ademi it was testified that both persons were recognized and identified among the corpses identified in Medak, in the Book of Missing Persons in the Republic of Croatia their names are registered among those whose remains are still sought, which was stated in Supreme Court’s final verdict.
judicial outcome: Investigation of this crime was initiated by investigators of the Hague Tribunal and in 2002 it led to an indictment against three Croatian Army officers, i.e. retired Staff General Janko Bobetko (who was at the time of the action Chief of the General Staff), retired general Mirko Norac (who at the time of action had a rank of colonel and was commander of the GMTBR within the Gospić operational zone) and general Rahim Ademi (who during the action had a title of a brigadier and was the commander of the Gospić operational zone). On 29 April 2003, Janko Bobetko died in his home and the Hague Tribunal in September 2005 transferred the Ademi-Norac case to the Croatian judiciary. In November of the following year, a “domestic” indictment was raised and eight months later the trial began. On 29 May 2008, Rahim Ademi was in the first instance ruling acquitted of all charges, while Mirko Norac was convicted to seven years in prison. In its final verdict of 18 November 2009, the Supreme Court confirmed the acquittal of Rahim Ademi, who did not have effective command responsibility in that area at the time when the crime was committed, while first instance verdict against Norac was confirmed and the sentence was reduced by one year. From the verdict against Mirko Norac, it transpires that he could not be responsible for the deaths of civilians killed outside the areas captured by troops under his command, i.e. in the area captured by special police forces.In this case the question remains why to this day no one was held accountable for the crimes, either among direct perpetrators or from the special police chain of command. The process also showed that the case had been systematically covered up, primarily through the work of military-intelligence structures, which should also be the basis for the criminal-legal responsibility of the participants. Further, victims murdered on 9 September 1993, i.e. the majority, were excluded from the verdict with the conclusion that Mirko Norac was convicted for the act of omission (failure to punish and prevent), and hence could not be guilty of the act of commission which he had not ordered and which he could not be aware of before it was committed. The consequence was, among other, that the families of seven civilian victims of 9 September 1993 established as such by court, were unable to seek compensation in a law-suit as victims of war crimes.
The Supreme Court in May 2020 confirmed the verdict which convicted the commander of the 9th MTBR reconnaissance company, Josip Krmpotić, to three years in prison for war crimes. Krmpotić was convicted for torching and destroying houses in Serb villages during the operation Medak pocket and was acquitted of charges of killing prisoners of war. Krmpotić received a sentence more lenient than the lowest stipulated by law, due to a number of circumstances which the court counted as mitigating. Velibor Šolaja and Josip Mršić, both members of Krmpotić’s unit, were convicted for killing an unidentified woman. By final ruling, Šolaja was convicted to five years in prison, and in a ruling which is not yet final, Mršić was convicted to three years in prison.