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10 June 2010

ICTY: Two Verdicts for Srebrenica Genocide

The Hague Tribunal Chamber renders a first instance verdict, finding Vujadin Popovic and Ljubisa Beara guilty of genocide in Srebrenica and sentencing them to life imprisonment, also sentencing Drago Nikolic to 35 years in prison for having assisted in and supported the commission of genocide.
By the same verdict Ljubomir Borovcanin has been sentenced to 17 years, Radivoje Miletic to 19 years, Milan Gvero to five years and Vinko Pandurevic to 13 years in prison for crimes against humanity committed in Srebrenica in July 1995.

Popovic, former Assistant Commander for Security with the Drina Corps of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, Beara, former Security Chief with the VRS Main Headquarters, Nikolic, Security Chief with the Zvornik Brigade, Borovcanin, former Commander of Joint Police Forces, and Pandurevic, former Commander of Zvornik Brigade, were charged with genocide and association with the aim of committing genocide and extermination, while Miletic, Deputy Chief of the VRS Main Headquarters, and Gvero, Assistant Commander for Moral, Legal and Religious Issues with the Main Headquarters, were indicted for crimes against humanity and violation of the laws and customs of war.

The Prosecution charges the seven men with participation in a joint criminal enterprise, which resulted in the murder of more than 7,000 men and boys from Srebrenica as well as the forcible resettlement of the remaining non-Serb residents from the area.

Commenting on the individual responsibility of each of the indictees, the Hague Tribunal Chamber determined that Popovic and Beara shared an intention to exterminate Bosniaks from the Srebrenica area.

"Beara's energetic efforts to recruit human force demonstrate a resolute determination to kill as many people as possible in a short period of time. The Chamber is convinced that Beara was a man determined to destroy a group of people by killing all of its members who were within his reach. Beyond any doubt, he had the intention to commit genocide," the Trial Chamber said.

The Court was not convinced that Nikolic had the same intention, but it was convinced that he "received information about the genocidal intentions of other people" and "made a significant contribution to its commission" in this way.

As far as Ljubomir Borovcanin is concerned the Trial Chamber found sufficient evidence to prove that he was aware of the existence of the plan or shared an intention to commit the common goal of the joint criminal enterprise and kill the men. However, the Chamber ruled that he had failed to protect the captured Bosniak men in Bratunac, knowing that they would be executed, and had failed to undertake necessary and reasonable actions to punish the killers.

"By their nature, the crimes for which you are sentenced are grave, but the Chamber considers that the specific circumstances in which you found yourself and the nature of your criminal responsibility mitigate the gravity of your criminal behavior," Trial Chamber Chairman Carmel Agius said.

The Trial Chamber did not accept the Prosecution's argument that Radivoje Miletic was Deputy Chief of the VRS Main Headquarters, but it said that he had taken over some of his responsibilities and he was "familiar with the criminal plan at an early stage".

"Miletic was at the very center of VRS coordination. He used his unique position in a skillful and efficient manner, enabling a contribution to the successful implementation of the joint criminal enterprise," Judge Agius said.

By the first instance verdict it was determined that Milan Gvero performed key functions with the aim of supporting the plan for forcible resettlement of people from the Srebrenica and Zepa enclaves, but it was not determined that he could foresee that some of them would be killed.

When it made its decision concerning the sentence against Vinko Pandurevic, the Trial Chamber determined that the indictee did not personally participate in the murders. It also considered, as a mitigating circumstance, the fact that he opened a corridor, on July 16, 1995, enabling several thousand men to go to the territories controlled by the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was "in contradiction to the orders he had received".

The Trial Chamber considered the participation of the indictee in the events in Srebrenica to have been "of a limited character".

The trial of the seven indictees, the largest conducted before the ICTY, began on July 14, 2006. The presentation of closing arguments was completed on September 15, 2009. In its closing arguments the Prosecution called on the Court to pronounce life sentences against all indictees, while the Defence teams said their clients' guilt had not been proved.

Despite the fact that the Hague Prosecution has filed indictments against 21 people for crimes committed in Srebrenica, up to the present date the ICTY has pronounced only one verdict, on assistance in the commission of genocide, sentencing Radislav Krstic, former Commander of the Drina Corps, to 35 years in prison.
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