WASHINGTON — The United States has extradited a Utica, N.Y., man to Bosnia-Herzegovina to stand trial there for charges relating to the torture and murder of one prisoner of war and the torture of another during the Bosnian War. The extradition is the result of an extensive investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Sulejman Mujagic, a citizen of Bosnia-Herzegovina and a resident of Utica, was extradited May 31 via John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. He arrived in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, June 1.
ICE Director John Morton; Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department's Criminal Division; and U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian, Northern District of New York, made the announcement.
"For the families who lost loved ones during the Bosnian war, justice has been a long time coming, but they can take some comfort in knowing that those responsible for this tragedy are now being held accountable for their crimes," said Director Morton. "I applaud the outstanding work by HSI special agents in upstate New York, ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, and our partners at the Department of Justice and Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities. Thanks to their efforts, Sulejman Mujagic will now face justice for his actions. We will continue to work tirelessly to ensure our country does not serve as a safe haven for human rights violators and others who have committed heinous acts."
"This extradition is the result of close cooperation between the U.S. and Bosnian authorities to bring alleged perpetrators of war crimes and torture in Bosnia to justice," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman.
"Through the coordinated efforts of many law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, Sulejman Mujagic will stand trial in a Bosnian court for the alleged murder of an unarmed soldier and the torture of a second soldier," said U.S. Attorney Hartunian. "This case is a reflection of our steadfast commitment to support the rights of crime victims – wherever they are."
Mujagic was extradited to Bosnia-Herzegovina to be tried for war crimes committed on or about March 6, 1995, during the armed conflict that followed the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Bosnia-Herzegovina has alleged that Mujagic, then a platoon commander in the Army of the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia, summarily tortured and executed a disarmed Bosnian Army soldier and tortured a second soldier after the two prisoners had been captured by Mujagic and his men.
Pursuant to an extradition request from Bosnia-Herzegovina government, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Syracuse, N.Y, Nov. 27. HSI special agents arrested Mujagic Nov. 28 in Utica for purposes of extradition. The U.S. Marshals Service, New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force, Utica Police Department and Oneida County Sheriff's Office assisted HSI with his Nov. 28 arrest.
U.S. Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles in Syracuse ruled April 2 that Mujagic was subject to extradition to Bosnia-Herzegovina to stand trial for the murder and torture of the two unarmed victims. Mujagic was delivered May 31 to Bosnia-Herzegovina authorities in New York, and he was subsequently removed from the United States. The Office of the Cantonal Prosecutor of the Una-Sana Canton in Bihac is handling Mujagic's prosecution in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Mujagic entered the United States in July 1997 and obtained status as a lawful permanent resident in March 2001. Mujagic does not retain U.S. citizenship.
The U.S. government wants to recognize the close cooperation between the United States and Bosnia-Herzegovina authorities, particularly the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Office of the Public Prosecutor of the Una-Sana Canton in Bihac. United States and Bosnia-Herzegovina authorities have cooperated on numerous war crimes cases in the past and will continue to work closely together in the future to bring alleged perpetrators of war crimes to justice.
This case was investigated by HSI Buffalo, with assistance from ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) and Interpol Washington. The case was handled by Trial Attorneys Ivana Nizich and Jay Bauer of the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section of the Justice Department's Criminal Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Carla Freedman of the Northern District of New York. The extradition was handled collaboratively with Criminal Division Trial Attorneys Ken Harris, Marcus Busch and Terry Schubert of the Justice Department's Office of International Affairs.
HSI is committed to rooting out alleged human rights violators who seek a safe haven in the United States. ICE's HRVWCC investigates human rights violators who try to evade justice by seeking shelter in the United States, including those who have participated in war crimes and acts of genocide, torture, the use of child soldiers and extrajudicial killings. These individuals may conceal their past to enter the country and attempt to blend into communities in the United States. 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 toll-free HSI tip line at 1-866-347-2423 or to complete its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock. To learn more about the assistance available to victims in these cases, the public should contact HSI's confidential victim-witness toll-free number at 1-866-872-4973. Tips may be provided anonymously.
Since fiscal year 2004, ICE has arrested more than 250 individuals for human rights-related violations under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders and physically removed more than 590 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Currently, HSI has more than 140 active investigations and ICE is pursuing nearly 1,900 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from 96 different countries.
Over the last four years, ICE's HRVWCC has issued more than 20,000 lookouts for people from more than 96 countries and stopped 117 human rights violators or war crime suspects from entering the United States.