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Justice Dept. moves to strip US citizenship from Bosnian war criminals

The American flag. (U.S. Department of State/Flickr)
April 06, 2018

Fox News reported this week that two individuals convicted of war crimes – one currently living in Oregon – could soon be stripped of their U.S. citizenships. On Wednesday, the Justice Department filed denaturalization lawsuits against the pair in federal courts in Oregon and Washington, D.C.

Rasema Handanovic and Edun Dzeko were “part of an elite unit of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina that attacked the village of Trusina on 16 April 1993, in what is known as the Trusina massacre,” according to a Justice Department press release.

During the attack, Handanovic and Dzeko executed six people, including civilians, in firing squad-fashion. In Bosnian court, Handanovic was later found to have shot the group of civilians a second time to ensure they were dead. Dzeko was also involved in the killing of an elderly man and his wife, according to the Justice Department, Fox News reported.

Following the war, the pair ultimately hid their military status and applied for refugee status in the U.S. The Justice Department stated that they claimed to have been victims of persecution. After their status was confirmed, the two moved to the Pacific Northwest, with Dzeko living in Everett, Washington and Handanovic in Beaverton.

Handanovic and Dzeko were eventually extradited back to Bosnia in 2011 and convicted by the courts for their war crimes. It was at this time that federal authorities finally learned about their actions during their time in the army.

Handanovic cooperated with Bosnian courts and provided information on other members of her military unit, which earned her a reduced sentence. After serving five and a half years, Handanovic returned to Beaverton, Oregon, where she currently lives.

Dzeko was sentenced to 13 years in jail in 2014 and remains detained in Bosnia.

“War criminals will find no safe haven or shelter within the United States,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to the release. “We will be steadfast as we investigate and prosecute human rights violators, torturers and war criminals. This is especially true for those who fraudulently obtain U.S. citizenship. For too long, we have tolerated egregious fraud in our refugee program, our immigration system, and the naturalization process. This Administration will hold alleged fraudsters accountable.”

“The United States has been a safe haven and symbol of hope for people fleeing from persecution, not for war criminals,” said U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu of the District of Columbia. “The actions taken in the District of Columbia and in Oregon today demonstrate that we will use every tool to ensure the integrity of our refugee programs.”