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22 January 2014
News

Maximum Sentence not Justified

Selma Ucanbarlic BIRN BiH Sarajevo
The Defence of Petar Mitrovic, who was released from prison after his verdict for assistance in the commission of genocide in Srebrenica had been quashed, says that it would not be justifiable to sentence the indictee to a maximum imprisonment sentence.
In October 2013 the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina quashed the second instance verdict against Mitrovic due to the wrong application of the criminal law. He was sentenced according to the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In its decision, the Constitutional Court of BiH said that he might have been sentenced to shorter sentence according to the Criminal Code of the former Yugoslavia.

Mitrovic, former member of the Second Special Police Squad from Sekovici, was sentenced, along with five other persons in 2009, to 28 years in prison for having participated in the shooting of about 1,000 Bosniaks in the Agricultural Co-operative in Kravica. Presenting its appeal before the Appellate Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Defence of Mitrovic said that the indictee did not know about the plan for shooting Srebrenica residents and that the Defence discovered some facts later on.

“Not even his commander knew about the execution plan, so it is illogical that an ordinary member of the armed forces knew about it. This is a new fact, which was not known to the Defence before. We consider that it should be taken into consideration, when deciding about the sentence,” said Defence attorney Vesna Tupajic-Skiljevic. She said that the indictee’s sanity was reduced at the time when the crime was committed, adding that, when deciding about the sentence, the Chamber should consider those pieces of evidence.

“Mitrovic has never been sentenced. He was born to a poor, but decent and respectable family. They were in good relations with everybody. We consider that the Court should also take the fact that he behaved in a correct manner during the criminal proceedings, in the detention unit and prison, into consideration,” the Defence attorney said.

The Defence said that, following the completion of the trial against him, the indictee testified in other cases as per invitations by the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  “Bearing all these things in mind, it would not be justifiable to pronounce a maximum sentence of 20 years against Petar Mitrovic,” the Defence attorney said.

The Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina did not file an appeal, but it provided the Trial Chamber with a response to the Defence’s appeal. The Appellate Chamber will render a decision at a later stage. At the beginning of the hearing the Defence said that it still considered that a decision about the indictee’s guilt should be made in this case. However, Trial Chamber Chairwoman Azra Miletic said that the Chamber would decide about the criminal sanction only.

In addition to this case, the Constitutional Court discontinued the execution of imprisonment sentences against 12 other war-crimes and genocide convicts due to the wrong application of the law.

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