U.S. Court: Alien Tort Statute/Torture Victim Protection Act




In August 1998, CJA and pro bono co-counsel the American Civil Liberties Union, Bostwick & Hoffman, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and George Washington University Law School filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia seeking damages against Nikola Vuckovic for torture and other atrocities he committed during the Bosnian War in 1992. The lead plaintiff, Kemal Mehinovic, accused Vuckovic of torturing him and other detainees during a six-month period. In December 1998, three additional plaintiffs joined Mr. Mehinovic in the lawsuit. The case went to trial on October 22, 2001, but Vuckovic failed to appear in court. According to his family, he had left the United States. Judge Marvin Shoob declared him in default and proceeded to conduct a bench trial on the merits.

On April 29, 2002, Judge Shoob handed down his judgment, finding Vuckovic liable for torture; cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; arbitrary detention; war crimes; and crimes against humanity. The court awarded the plaintiffs $140 million in damages.

“Vuckovic directly and even sadistically participated in, aided, and observed horrific acts of brutality committed against defenseless civilian detainees whose only crime was that they were members of the Muslim ethnic group … These acts were at the core of the definition of crimes against humanity.”

                        –April 29, 2002 judgment of Judge Marvin Shoob