According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a Tennessee man was arraigned on Thursday on charges that he tortured prisoners during the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s.
According to a superseding indictment returned on Dec. 6, Sead Miljković, aka Sead Dukic, 51, of Chattanooga, was allegedly a member of the Obezbjeđenje objekata i lica (OBL), a police force of the so-called Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia (APZB). The OBL was responsible for guarding APZB headquarters at the Old Fort, a castle overlooking the town of Velika Kladuša, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Between December 1994 and August 1995, soldiers of the former Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina who had been captured in fighting against APZB armed forces were transported from detention camps to perform forced labor at the Old Fort under Miljković’s and other OBL members’ supervision and control.
Miljkovic was arrested on June 6 after living in East Ridge for 24 years as Sead Dukic. He pleaded not guilty on June 27 to allegations of passport fraud.
“Sead Miljković allegedly tortured prisoners and then decades later lied about his identity to obtain a U.S. passport,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Neither the passage of time nor a defendant’s concealment efforts will prevent us from bringing human rights violators to justice and ensuring that perpetrators of torture cannot seek refuge in the United States.”
“The superseding indictment’s torture charges are serious human rights abuses that cannot go unpunished,” said U.S. Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III for the Eastern District of Tennessee. “We thank our investigative partners on this case for their outstanding efforts to gather evidence required for these charges.”
Miljković and other OBL members allegedly inflicted severe and sustained beatings on the prisoners, using a metal pipe, rifle butt, and shovel handle, causing the victims to lose consciousness or suffer other injuries. Miljković and other OBL members also allegedly threatened prisoners with death, intentionally withheld water even while forcing the prisoners to perform hard physical labor, forced the prisoners to fight one another, and pushed one victim’s head down on a knife or bayonet as if to impale his throat on the blade.
“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is resolute in its commitment to protecting human rights and the pursuit of justice,” said Special Agent in Charge Rana Saoud of HSI Nashville. “The United States in not a safe haven for war criminals and human rights violators. Thanks to the dedication of our HSI Chattanooga special agents, Miljković will now have to answer these allegations in court.”
Miljković is charged with three counts of inflicting torture on prisoners under his supervision. In June, Miljković was charged in a three-count indictment with passport fraud for allegedly making false statements relating to his true name and date of birth. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count.
HSI Chattanooga investigated the case, with support from HSI Vienna, HSI Newark, and HSI’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, and assistance from the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service Houston Field Office, Chattanooga Police Department Special Victims Unit, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, and Tennessee Highway Patrol. The Justice Department thanks the Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, which were instrumental in furthering the investigation.
Trial Attorneys Elizabeth Nielsen and Chelsea Schinnour of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecution Section (HRSP) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Woods for the Eastern District of Tennessee are prosecuting the case, with assistance from HSRP historians. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also provided assistance.
Members of the public who have information about human rights violators in the United States are urged to contact U.S. law enforcement through the HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or through the ICE tip form at www.ice.gov/webform/ice-tip-form.