MIAMI - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers removed Branko Popic, who served in the army of the breakaway Republic of Srpska during the July 1995 Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Popic, 62, a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, formerly part of Yugoslavia, was returned via commercial flight Saturday morning. Popic was turned over to the custody of Bosnian authorities at Sarajevo International Airport (SJJ) in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Popic was being detained at the Wakulla County Jail in Crawfordville, Fla. and was transported by ICE deportation officers on Jan. 13 to Tallahassee Regional Airport (TLH), in Tallahassee, Fla. to begin his removal from the United States.
"This is another example of how ICE will not allow the United States to be a safe haven for those who have come to our country in an effort to evade prosecution and punishment for the crimes they committed against others," said Marc Moore, field office director for ICE ERO in Miami. "ICE will use its immigration authorities to remove criminals and human rights violators from the United States and turn them over to our foreign law enforcement partners to face justice in their native countries."
On Nov. 22, 2006, Popic entered into ICE ERO custody after having served a term of 180 days imprisonment with credit for time served following his Aug. 15, 2006 guilty plea of battery in Pinellas County, Fla. He was identified as removable pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act.
On Jan. 15, 2010, a U.S. immigration judge ordered Popic removed from the United States. Popic subsequently filed an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). On June 29, 2010, the BIA dismissed Popic's appeal and denied his motion to remand the case.
During Popic's immigration removal proceedings, the immigration judge concluded that Popic served in the Army of the Republic of Srpska (VRS) from 1992-1995, and specifically, that he was a member of the VRS's Zvornik Brigade that was responsible for the Srebrenica Massacre of more than 8,000 civilian Muslims in July 1995.
Identifying and removing persecutors and human rights violators from the United States is a priority for ICE. To achieve this goal, ICE created the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit (HRVWCU) in 2003, which has national oversight over investigations of individuals alleged to have committed crimes such as genocide, extra-judicial killings, torture, suppression of religious freedom and other forms of persecution. The unit also seeks to prevent the admission of known or suspected human rights abuse suspects into the United States.
To date, ICE has initiated nationwide over 1,000 human rights related investigations or removal cases that are in various stages of investigation from more than 95 countries. These cases are predominantly focused on Central and South America, Haiti, the former Yugoslavia and Africa. They represent cases in various stages of investigation, criminal prosecution or removal proceedings.
ICE encourages the public to come forward with any information they may have regarding human rights abusers living in the United States. Nationwide, anonymous tips may be reported at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423).