location: Novska is a town in westernmost Slavonia, between Kutina and Nova Gradiška. According to the 2011 census, Novska had 13,518 inhabitants, of whom 4.74 percent were Serbs. According to the 1991 census, the Novska municipality had 24,696 citizens, of whom 21.78 percent were Serbs. Although Novska administratively no longer encompasses the same area as in 1991, and has fewer inhabitants, a great change in the ethnic structure of the population is evident from the big decline in the number of Serbs in this area.
description of crime: In the autumn and winter of 1991, Novska was on the frontline during the war in Croatia. On 21 November 1991 at about 10 p.m., several Croatian soldiers broke into the house of Mihajlo Šeatović. They took him to the neighbouring house where his neighbours Ljuban Vujić, and Mišo and Sajka Rašković were already held captive and were then all killed with knives and firearms. These Serb civilians, according to the indictment, were killed in a particularly cruel and brutal manner. The woman was found naked, with her throat and chest cut and riddled with bullets. Men’s fingers, testicles and genitals were cut off, they were stabbed with knives, their joints and bones were crushed, their throats were slit, and they were sprayed with bullets from automatic rifles. On 18 December 1991, members of the Croatian Army entered the house of Petar Mileusnić, where they abused and then shot dead Goranka Mileusnić, Vera Mileusnić and Blaženka Slabak, while gravely wounding Petar Mileusnić, whom they left for dead as they left the house.
judicial outcome: Military prosecution in Zagreb in 1992 indicted Dubravko Leskovar and Damir Raguž Vida for murder, not for a war crime against civilian population. The Court’s panel of judges on 10 November 1992 issued a ruling suspending the proceedings based on the then valid Law on amnesty from criminal prosecution and procedure for criminal acts committed in armed conflicts and in the war against the republic of Croatia. A new procedure was initiated at the County Court in Sisak on 8 March 2010, when the main hearing began in the process against Damir Vida Raguž and Željko Škledar, who were this time accused of having committed a war crime against civilian population on 21 November 1991 in Novska. On 16 April 2010, defendant Damir Vida Raguž was found guilty by a first-instance verdict that sentenced him to 20 years of prison, while defendant Željko Škledar was acquitted. On 10 July 2012, an appeals’ council’s session was held and the first-instance ruling was overturned. On 7 February 2013, the County Court in Zagreb acquitted Damir Vide Raguž and Željko Škledar in the first-instance verdict. For the war crime in the house of Petar Mileusnić in 1992, an investigation was carried out against Željko Belina, Ivan Grgić, Dubravko Leskovar, Dejan Milić and Zdravko Plesec, for criminal acts of murder and attempted murder. The procedure was finalized on 2 November 1992 with a decision to halt criminal proceedings on the basis of the Amnesty Law. The Sisak County initiated proceedings against defendants Željko Belina, Dejan Milić, Ivan Grgić, and Zdravko Plesec, former members of the Croatian Army charged with war crimes against civilian population for killing Goranka and Vera Mileusnić, and Blaženka Slabak, and wounding Petar Mileusnić in Novska in December 1991. On 19 November 2010, the Sisak County Court’s Council for War Crimes ruled to abandon the case, considering the matter as having already been processed in court.
The Supreme Court abolished the first instance verdict of abandonment related to the principal defendant Belina and the second defendant Milić. After a renewed procedure, the Council for War Crimes of the County Court in Zagreb declared the defendants guilty on 8 March 2013. Belina was sentenced to ten and Milić to nine years. In October of the same year, the Supreme Court confirmed the verdict.
Family members of those murdered have not received adequate moral or financial satisfaction. They were additionally victimized because they have an obligation to pay the court fees for the lost law suits in which they sued the Republic of Croatia, holding it responsible for the crime committed by the identified members of Croatian Army (HV). Marica Šeatović, wife of the murdered Mihajlo Šeatović filed for damages from the Republic of Croatia in 2004 because of her husband’s death, which the municipal court in Novska rejected with the explanation that the rifle with which massacre in Rašković’s house was committed “had been involved in operations of the Homeland War” and that perpetrators had been “drunk and filled with indignation over the fall of Vukovar”. She appealed to the court in Sisak, but her request was turned down and ultimately she had to pay 8,500 kuna court fees. In 2008, she initiated procedure at the Supreme Court which returned the case first to Sisak and then again to Novska, where the judge again ruled against it. Marica was again obliged to pay 10,000 kuna in court fees. From her pension of 1,600 kuna, Marica Šeatović has already paid the state 20,000 kuna, while her husband’s killers are still free and she has not received a single kuna in compensation from the state.