DOJ Brings Two Civil Denaturalization Complaints Against Convicted War Criminals

Alexander J. Segal's picture

On April 4, 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had filed civil denaturalization lawsuits against two convicted war criminals of the former Yugoslavia [PDF version].

The two individuals who were charged — Edin Dezko, 46, and Rasema Yetisen, 45 — are alleged to have been “part of an elite unit of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina that attacked the village of Trusina on April 16, 1993, in what is known as the Trusina massacre.” The unit that they are alleged to have been a part of “targeted Bosnian Croats who resided in the village because of their Christian religion and Croat ethnicity, killing 22 unarmed individuals including women and the elderly.” A Bosnian court had previously found that both Dezko and Yetisen were part of a firing squad during the massacre that executed six unarmed prisoners of war and civilians. Furthermore, the Bosnian court found that Yetisen was charged with ensuring that the six unarmed prisoners of war and civilians were dead by shooting them again. The Bosnian court found that Dezko “also killed a crippled elderly man, and then shot the man's wife in the back, killing her because she would not stop crying.”

Before their crimes were revealed, Dezko and Yetisen sought refugee status in the United States claiming that they were victims of persecution. According to the complaints, both Dezko and Yetisen “concealed and affirmatively misrepresented their criminal history, military service, and persecutory acts throughout their immigration proceedings.” The complaints alleged that these concealments and misrepresentations were material to their applications, meaning that they would not have been admitted as refugees but for the concealments and misrepresentations. Dezko and Yetisen eventually procured naturalization.

The United States Government discovered the alleged omissions and outright misrepresentations by Dezko and Yetisen when the Government of Bosnian and Herzegovina made a treaty-based extradition request for both individuals to stand trial for their crimes during the Bosnian War. The extradition request was granted. In 2012, Yetisen pled guilty in Bosnian court to war crimes against prisoners of war and crimes against civilians based on his role in the firing squad executions. As a result of his plea and conviction, Yetisen was sentenced to five years and six months in prison. After being released from prison, Yetisen returned to the United States and currently resides in Oregon. In 2014, Dezko was convicted in Bosnian court of war crimes against prisoners of war and war crimes against civilians, based “in part on Yetisen's testimony against him.” Dezko was held responsible for eight killings. Dezko remains in Bosnia and Herzegovina while serving his prison sentence.

The civil denaturalization complaints against Dezko and Yetisen charge both under the civil denaturalization provision in 8 U.S.C. 1451(a), which is the same as section 341(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). We have posted the civil denaturalization complaints against Dezko [PDF version] and Yetisen [PDF version]. If denaturalized, their status would be returned to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, and they would then be subject to removal proceedings. However, until any determinations of liability are be made, it is important to remember, as the DOJ news release makes clear, that “[t]he claims made in these complaints are allegations only…”

To learn more about denaturalization, please see our growing collection of articles on the subject [see category].

DOJ Brings Two Civil Denaturalization Complaints Against Convicted War Criminals