One of the fundamental legal principles or concepts of jurisprudence is that before a person can be charged with a crime, evidence must be shown that a crime has occurred. This is known by the legal principle of “corpus delicti”, the body of a crime, meaning that there must be evidence that a crime has occurred before a defendant can be charged or prosecuted for the crime. The 6th edition of Black’s Law Dictionary (1990) gives the meaning of corpus delicti as “the fact of a crime having been actually committed”. In a murder or homicide case, evidence must be presented that meets the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. In murder cases, evidence must show that the specific injury has occurred, a human being has died, and that the injury can be ascribed to criminal agency on the part of an individual as the cause of the injury, that the victim died due to a criminal act.
The concept of corpus delicti is essential and elemental in all murder or homicide cases. It is the bedrock upon which the crime of murder is prosecuted in Anglo-American jurisprudence. During the Bosnian civil rar of 1992-1995, this fundamental legal precept was blatantly and flagrantly violated. The most egregious case is that of the prosecution of Bosnian Serbs Borislav Herak and Sretko Damjanovic. In March, 1993 they were tried, and subsequently convicted of committing war crimes by the Bosnian Muslim faction and sentenced to death. Herak, who had been born on January 18, 1971 in Sarajevo and who had worked as a store clerk, was charged with raping 16 Bosnian Muslim women and murdering 32 Bosnian Muslim POWs and civilians, although the figures were repeatedly altered. After their conviction, two of their alleged victims, Kasim and Asim Blekic, were found alive.
In the January 31, 1996 New York Times story “Symbol of Inhumanity in Bosnia Now Says ‘Not Me’”, Kit R. Roane admitted that there was no corpus delicti, no evidence of any crimes, murders or rapes: “The Bosnian Government has no witnesses to the killings and has recovered no bodies.” The Houston Chronicle reported similarly that there was no evidence of any crimes: “There are no witnesses to the killings Herak is said to have committed and no bodies of those thought dead have been recovered.”
Bosnian Serbs Borislav Herak and Sretko Damjanovic were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by execution by firing squad based on the absence of a corpus delicti, based on the lack of any evidence. How is this justice? Why was the Bosnian Muslin faction allowed to stage this travesty of justice?
This egregious perversion of justice was sponsored and endorsed by the U.S. government and the U.S. media. John F. Burns even received the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for his “interviews” of Borislav Herak. Herak and Damjanovic later recanted their “confessions” which were obtained through torture. Damjanovic displayed four knife wounds and a broken rib. The Bosnian Muslim interrogators and guards had beaten, tortured, and abused him to obtain a false confession.
On March 1, 1997, John F. Burns’ newspaper, The New York Times, in a story by Chris Hedges revealed that the two Bosnian Muslim murder victims were actually alive. In the story, “Jailed Serbs’ ‘Victims’ Found Alive, Embarrassing Bosnia”, the New York Times disclosed that the alleged murder victims had been members of the Bosnian Muslim Army during the civil war who still lived in Sarajevo. Kasim Blekic was photographed raising sheep outside of Sarajevo.
This horrendous miscarriage and travesty of justice has not, however, received the attention and analysis it deserves. Moreover, Burns was never stripped of his Pulitzer Prize for fraudulent and fake reporting. Ironically, the prize was named for Joseph Pulitzer, who was, along with William Randolph Hearst, one of the founders of yellow journalism, a deceptive, sensationalist, and distorted form of journalism that is more akin to propaganda or public relations than to news reporting.