Croatia: Extradition For Alleged Communist Crimes Not Statute-Barred

Josip Perkovic    Photo: Dalibor Urukalovic/PIXSELL

Josip Perkovic Photo: Dalibor Urukalovic/PIXSELL

It’s been a week of nail-biting suspense in Croatia regarding extradition to Germany of Josip Perkovic for crimes associated with specific communist crimes (murder of Croatian émigrés) committed by the former communist Yugoslavia secret police (UDBA).

In spite of all the massive pressure and infuriating underhanded dirty tricks by the pro-communist government and lobby in Croatia to prevent Germany from processing in its courts crimes committed under political motives by the former Yugoslav communist regime a bright dawn has released hope for justice for victims of those crimes.
The Croatian Supreme Court has ruled: Croatia will extradite to Germany Josip Perkovic, former communist Yugoslavia secret police operative who is wanted by Germany for allegedly masterminding the murder in 1983 of Croat émigré Stjepan Djurekovic.
Although the Supreme Court in Croatia ruled on extradition last Friday 17 January, the decision was published yesterday (Tuesday 21st January).
Croatia, which joined the EU in July, initially refused to extradite Perkovic, and two days before joining the EU on 1st July 2013 the pro-communist government led by Social Democrats had changed the country’s relevant law and insisted that only crimes committed after 2002 could be subject to EU arrest warrants/extraditions. Under EU and German pressure,  Croatia amended its laws in line with the EU standards only a couple of months ago, and still its courts ruled differently on same circumstances recently. i.e. judicially unsustainable differences in interpreting statute of limitation had resulted in one District court ruling extradition and the other against, as I wrote in my previous post.
There’s a window of 10 days from the Supreme Court decision within which Perkovic is to be handed over to German authorities.

A translation from the Croatian language of the most relevant parts of the Supreme Court ruling is as follows:

The Supreme court of the Republic of Croatia by its panel consisting of Supreme court judges, headed by Lidija Grubic Radakovec as panel president and dr. sc. Zdenko Konjic and dr. sc. Marin Mrcela as panel members, with assistance from court adviser Maja Ivanovic Stilinovic as minute taker, in the criminal case against the wanted person Josip Perkovic, for a crime from Article 211, in association with Article 27 of the Crimes Act of Federal Republic of Germany, deliberating on appeals from the State Attorney and the wanted person person Josip Perkovic against whom extradition warrant exists, lodged against the judgment of the District court in Zagreb on 8 January 2014, No. KV-EUN-2/14, at the panel meeting held 17 January 2014 has delivered the following decision:

The Appeals by the State Attorney and the person subject to extradition warrant Josip Perkovic are rejected as unfounded.


District court decision in Zagreb under point I., based on Article 29. Clause 4 and 5 of Judicial cooperation in criminal matters with states members of European Union Act (…) based on the European arrest warrant issued by General federal prosecutor of Federal Republic of Germany (No.) extradition of the wanted person Josip Perkovic is permitted…for the purposes of criminal proceedings against criminal acts from Article 211 in association with Article 29 Crimes Act Fed. Rep. of Germany.

The wanted person has agreed to be returned to the Republic of Croatia after the completion of criminal proceedings for the purposes of serving of the sentence and the principle of special circumstances has been taken into consideration and extradition is permitted under the following conditions:

–    that no criminal proceedings or serving of prison sentence for any other criminal act perpetrated before extradition are permitted against J.P. without the permission from the Republic of Croatia;

–    that he cannot be extradited to any other country member for the purposes of conducting criminal proceedings or serving prison sentence for crimes committed prior to extradition, without the permission of the Republic of Croatia;

–    that he cannot be extradited to a third country for the purposes of conducting criminal proceedings or serving prison sentence for crimes committed prior to extradition, without the permission of the Republic of Croatia;

–    that after final court judgment on criminal sanctions he be returned to the Republic of Croatia for the purposes of serving the criminal sanctions.

… As (temporary) measure (pending extradition) of caution it is forbidden for Josip Perkovic to travel outside the city of Zagreb…

… an act is punishable in accordance with the law enacted in the country where the accused is found (the country upon which arrest warrant has been served, the country that executes that arrest warrant) and the country that seeks extradition in order to conduct the proceedings (the country that seeks extradition, the country that issues the arrest warrant), in which it is enough that the act falls under the criminal law in both countries’.

…if the absolute statute of limitations has not, at time of decision, been reached on the basis of a former legislation the decisions are based in accordance with the current legislation and in the case of extension of statute of limitations under the same legislation .  Accordingly, when dealing with criminal acts under the consideration of double sanctions, and this case does not fall within that category, the event of relative statute of limitations having been reached cannot be a foundation for the rejection of an arrest warrant, but instead, it is exclusively the coming into effect of the absolute statute of limitations at the time when the decision is made.

…It’s not only that the Appellant had not offered evidence which would reasonably show the circumstances under which the court process in Germany would breach the principles of just proceedings, but that possibility was not even shown as likely.  Instead of that, the Appellant offers a personal assessment of the credibility of evidence from a court judgment, emphasizing the testimony of one witness … in which that witness ‘retracts his statements and explains why he gave a false statement’ and two newspaper clippings that write about (non)credibility of the witness’ statement.

Appellant’s view of the (non)credibility of one witness’ statement, accompanied by documentation, which has not passed the examination required under criminal procedure, is not adequate for credibility nor for any eventuality that at court proceedings in Germany, that still needs to implement and assess needed evidence, would deny the right to a just hearing to the wanted person…

In simple words, the Supreme Court in Croatia has ruled that Josip Perkovic must be extradited to Germany. That the time has not been reached after which proceedings for the alleged crime are barred. That, given that the matter is one of criminal offense of murder it is necessary to apply extradition in accordance with the European arrest warrant if statute of limitations has not been reached in the country that is processing the crime. Perkovic claimed that he would not receive a fair hearing in Germany and based his claim on the recent statement by Vinko Sindicic that he had lied under oath in the court hearing in Germany, which convicted Krunoslav Prates for the murder of Stjepan Djurekovic.  The Supreme Court found that Perkovic had provided no credible evidence to corroborate him claim of an unfair hearing in Germany.

Perkovic still has the ability to appeal to the Constitutional court against his extradition. Whether he will take up that option is yet unclear even if he seems to have accepted the fate of extradition and claims innocence. Desperate people, take desperate measures – so anything can happen.

Whether Josip Perkovic is eventually found innocent or guilty of criminal charges brought against him in Germany does not really matter in the wider scheme of things. What is most important though, is the fact that the court case will open up wider the window through which the world will see more of the horrors served against Croats by the totalitarian regime of the former Yugoslavia. The case will strengthen the resolve to pursue justice for victims of communist crimes and weaken the resistance for such justice by the former communists and the so-called antifascists who have for decades justified horrible crimes in the name of “liberty”! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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