SALEM, Ore. – Federal authorities on Wednesday began legal proceedings to strip U.S. citizenship from two Bosnians, including one living in Oregon, for war crimes including executing civilians during that country's civil war in the 1990s.
The move by the U.S. Justice Department comes years after Rasema Handanovic and Edin Dzeko were extradited and later convicted by courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2011. After serving her sentence, Handanovic returned to Beaverton, Oregon, according to a statement from the Justice department, while Dzeko has not yet been released by Bosnian authorities.
The department filed denaturalization lawsuits against the pair in federal courts in Oregon and the District of Columbia Wednesday. It wasn't immediately clear if Handanovic has an attorney in Oregon, and information about an attorney for Dzeko was not immediately available.
Members of the same military unit during the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990's, the pair were convicted of executing civilians and unarmed soldiers during a massacre in the tiny mountain village of Trusina.
The larger conflict between Bosnia's three main groups — Muslims, Serbs and Croats — lasted from 1992 until 1995, killed 260,000 people and displaced forced 1.8 million more to flee. Muslims and Croats were allied against the Serbs at the start of the war, but they became enemies when Croat forces sought to capture territory held by the Bosnian army.
The military unit to which the pair belonged, part of the Bosnian army, attacked Croats in Trusina on April 16, 1993.
During the attack, the pair was part of a firing squad that executed six people, including civilians, and Handanovic made sure all six were dead by shooting them again, Bosnian courts later found. Dzeko was also convicted of killing an elderly man and his wife, according to the Justice Department.
After the massacre, the pair hid their military service and applied for refugee status in the U.S., claiming to have been victims of persecution, the Justice Department said.
After receiving the status, both moved to the Pacific Northwest, with Dzeko settling in Everett, Wash., and Handanovic in Beaverton. Federal authorities only learned about their participation in the massacre later, when Bosnia and Herzegovina requested in 2011 that the pair be extradited.
Both were convicted in Bosnia the following year. Handanovic cooperated with Bosnian courts and received a reduced sentence for providing information about other members of the unit, including Dzeko.