“I felt the need for us as a responsible society to openly and sincerely face the war crimes that have been committed. I believed that it was important to start cooperating with the Tribunal and that despite all the opposition and lack of understanding in the public somebody should definitely start the process of accepting the responsibility of asking forgiveness of the victims and, as the final goal, of achieving reconciliation with the environment.”
Miodrag Jokić, was commander of the 9th Military Naval Sector of the Yugoslav Navy, which was responsible for attacking the southern Croatian town of Dubrovnik and surrounding areas in late 1991. Soldiers under his command shelled the Old Town of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, where two civilians were killed and three were wounded. Buildings, institutions dedicated to religion, charity, education, and the arts and sciences, and historic monuments were damaged or destroyed. As commander, Jokić failed to take the necessary measures to prevent or stop the shelling or subsequently punish or discipline those responsible. At the time, he was the most senior officer of the Yougoslav army to voluntarily surrender,and his guilty plea was to help break the code of silence that has hovered over the bombing of Dubrovnik. He substantially cooperated with the Tribunal and participated in political activities aimed at promoting a peaceful solution to the conflicts in the region. Jokić was sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment.
4 December 2003 (extract from transcript of hearing)
Together with my Defence team and with the minimal assistance provided by the organs of the state and of the military, I thoroughly investigated and examined the allegations in the indictment and my individual and objective responsibility. I was aware of my command responsibility for the acts of my subordinates in combat and for the failings and mistakes in the exercise of command over troops.
At the same time, I felt the need for us as a responsible society to openly and sincerely face the war crimes that have been committed. I believed that it was important to start cooperating with the Tribunal and that despite all the opposition and lack of understanding in the public somebody should definitely start the process of accepting the responsibility of asking forgiveness of the victims and, as the final goal, of achieving reconciliation with the environment.
Your Honour, there are two reasons why I'm here today: The first is my personal conviction that as a commander I have a moral and personal obligation to accept responsibility and to ask forgiveness for the acts of my subordinates, even though I did not order them; the second reason is the awareness of the fact that my admission of guilt and repentance and remorse are more important than my personal fate.
On 6 December 1991, two people were killed, three people were wounded and substantial damage was caused to civilian structures and to cultural and historical monuments in the old town of Dubrovnik. The fact that these lives were lost in the area for which I was responsible will remain etched in my consciousness for the rest of my life. I am ready to bow before all the victims of this conflict, regardless of the side they were on, with the dignity of a soldier.
Furthermore, although I had already done that in the course of the shelling itself over the radio, and afterwards I did it again in person, I feel the obligation to express my deepest sympathy to the families of those who were killed and wounded and the citizens of Dubrovnik for the pain and all the damage that was caused to them by the unit under my command.
I see my regret as a prerequisite for reconciliation and the coexistence of various peoples in this area. Your Honour, I have been a professional soldier my whole life. As such, I have abided by the officers code trying to serve my profession and my country honourably.
That is why I stand here before you, in hope that my act will contribute to the final reconciliation and that it will enable the people in this area to live together and that it will also create a possibility for my people not to bear the burden of guilt now and in the future. Thank you very much, Your Honours. ”