OH Man Deported Related to Bosnian War Crimes (Learn More, Video)

Exhumations in Srebrenica, 1996. (Photograph provided courtesy of the ICTY)
Exhumations in Srebrenica, 1996. (Photograph provided courtesy of the ICTY)

An Akron, Ohio, man was ordered deported on Tuesday for failing to disclose his involvement in a military unit engaged in war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

David A. Sierleja, acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Steve Francis, acting special agent in charge of HSI Detroit, announced the sentencing.

Ilija Josipovic, 59, previously pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of immigration documents procured by fraud. U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson ordered Josipovic removed from the United States. He was also sentenced to eight months of house arrest.

Steve Francis, acting special agent in charge for HSI Detroit
Steve Francis, acting special agent in charge for HSI Detroit

“The United States will never serve as a place of refuge for individuals seeking to distance themselves from their pasts,” Francis said.

“HSI will continue to use its unique authorities to ensure that alleged war criminals are brought to justice.”

“This defendant hid the fact that he was a member of a unit involved in atrocities in the former Yugoslavia,” Sierleja said.

“He does not deserve the protections and rights of a U.S. citizen when his conduct flew in the face of our nation’s founding ideals.”

Josipovic, on Feb. 1, 2012, possessed a Permanent Resident Card in his name, which he knew to be procured by means of a false claim and statement, while obtaining an Ohio driver’s license in Akron.

On Sept. 10, 2014, he possessed a Permanent Resident Card in his name, which he knew to be procured by means of a false claim and statement while at his residence in Akron, according to court documents.

In 2002, Josipovic omitted or failed to disclose his military service in the 6th Battalion, Zvornik Infantry Brigade, Army of the Republic of Srpska, which began around May 25, 1992 and continued until approximately 1996, according to court documents.

That unit is implicated in assisting in the persecution and genocide in and around Srebrenica, Bosnia, in July 1995, when approximately 8,000 men and boys were executed and 30,000 women and children were violently expelled from the United Nations Safe Area.

(Learn More, courtesy of BBC News and YouTube)

The Srebrenica Genocide took place in July 1995 months before the end of the Bosnian war. Bosnian Serb forces took over a United Nations “safe haven” in eastern Bosnia, separated the men and boys from the women, bound their hands, led them away and shot them.

More than 8,000 Bosniaks, mainly men and boys, in and around the town of Srebrenica, were killed. The fierce struggle for territorial control and ethnic cleansing also involved deliberate starvation, forced displacement, torture and rape.

According to ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center senior historian Michael MacQueen the War Crimes Unit regards Srebrenica as its highest enforcement priority.

“A guiding factor in our investigations is the fact that Srebrenica was a huge operation,” MacQueen has previously explained.

“It took thousands of men to carry out – not just the commander and the shooters, but also the planners, supply chiefs, coordinators, guards, infantrymen and gravediggers.”

“Just because someone may not have pulled the trigger does not mean they did not assist in the achievement of genocide.”

(Learn More about HRVWCU, courtesy of ICE and YouTube)

Since 2003, ICE has arrested more than 380 individuals for human rights-related violations of the law under various criminal and immigration statutes, operating under the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit (HRVWCU) within the National Security Investigations Division (NSID).

During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders against and physically removed 785 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States.

Additionally, ICE has facilitated the departure of an additional 108 such individuals from the United States.

Currently, HSI has more than 160 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,750 leads and removals cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries.

Since 2003, the HRVWCC has issued more than 70,400 lookouts for individuals from more than 110 countries and stopped 213 human rights violators and war crimes suspects from entering the U.S.

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Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to call the ICE Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2423 (1-866-347-2423). Callers may remain anonymous.

To learn more about the assistance available to victims in these cases, the public should contact ICE’s confidential victim-witness toll-free number at 1-866-872-4973.