Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Briefly Noted

Compiled by IWPR staff in The Hague (TU No 421, 16-Sep-05)
By IWPR

Sredoje Lukic is the cousin of Milan Lukic – one of the most wanted Bosnian war crimes suspects.


Both men have been charged with crimes in the municipality of Visegrad in southeastern Bosnia, near the border with Serbia between 1992 and 1994.


Sredoje is alleged to have been a member of a notorious Bosnian Serb paramilitary force known as the “White Eagles” or the “Avengers”, which was led by his cousin Milan.


The indictment describes the activities of the paramilitaries in coordination with local police and military units as a “brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing designed to rid the area of all non-Serb inhabitants”.


On one occasion in 1992, prosecutors allege that the two men killed some 70 Bosnian Muslims by driving them into a house in Nova Mahala, setting fire to the building and then gunning down anyone who tried to escape through the windows.


They are alleged to have employed a similar method just a fortnight later, this time barricading some 70 Muslims into a house in Bikavac and throwing explosives into the building. Only one person survived.


The two are also accused of a series of other murders, beatings of prisoners and the general charge of persecution of non-Serbs.


Sredoje faces twelve counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes.


A third White Eagles member, Mitar Vasiljevic, was sentenced by the tribunal’s appeals chamber in February 2004 to 15 years in prison for his role in the murders of seven Bosnian Muslims.


The prosecution has requested that Milan and Sredoje Lukic be tried in local courts in Bosnia, as part of the tribunal’s completion strategy, which sees the court focusing on higher-level cases in order to meet its goal of finishing all trial proceedings by the end of 2008 and rounding up its work two years later.


Milan Lukic was arrested last month in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is said to be willing to be sent to The Hague.


A court in Serbia has sentenced Milan Lukic to 20 years in prison in absentia on a different set of charges relating to the abduction and murder of 16 Bosnian Muslims from a bus in 1993.


***


Former top Bosnian military commander, Sefer Halilovic, has been given provisional release until November 7, when the tribunal will judge his case.


In making their decision, the judges took into account defence arguments that Halilovic had no money with which to pay for his wife and children to visit The Hague.


Halilovic has been charged with a single count of violations of the laws or customs of war in connection with the killings of 62 Bosnian Croats in the villages of Grabovica and Uzdol in September 1993.


He was chief of staff of the Bosnian army at the time, running a military operation dubbed Neretva 93, aimed at relieving a blockade of the city of Mostar.


The trial has been one of the shortest at the tribunal so far – beginning in January, with closing arguments at the beginning of September.


The former commander will have to remain in Sarajevo, report to the local police once a week and is forbidden from discussing the case publicly.


***


Milan Martic, former president of the Republika Srpska Krajina, said in a status conference this week that he was going to “set a record” for having spent the longest time in pre-trial detention, and expressed his desire that the trial should begin soon.


Martic, who is charged with responsibility for the shelling attacks in Zagreb in May 1995, and crimes against non-Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina carried out by his militia known as the “Martic Police”, was first transferred to the tribunal three years and four months ago.


However, it has still not been decided whether he will be tried alone, or in a joint trial along with Jovica Stanisic, Frenki Simatovic, and Vojislav Seselj. The judge explained that Martic could expect a solo trial to begin in December this year or January 2006, but that a combined trial may be delayed even longer.


Meanwhile, the counsel for the defence, Predrag Milovancevic, had further complaints for the judge. He became visibly agitated while protesting that he needed more time and additional funds in order to examine all the prosecution material.


Judge Martin Canivel repeatedly stated that he had no sympathy for this argument. “I insist that you have to take care with the money you have received,” he said. “You have already been allocated above the average amount.”


On the subject of when the trial should begin, however, the judge was more reassuring. “You may be sure that the court is very concerned about how soon [the trial] can be started,” he told Martic.


***


The Hague trial of former Kosovo premier Ramush Haradinaj is expected to start in November 2006, and could last from 12-18 months, according a judge at a pre-trial status conference.


Haradinaj, who resigned from his post on March 8 and handed himself over to the tribunal a day later, is facing 37 counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war.


Prosecutors allege that he, as one of the Kosovo Liberation Army's most influential leaders, participated in a brutal campaign to abduct, torture and murder dozens of Serbs, Roma and Albanians in 1998.


Haradinaj is charged along with two of his alleged subordinates at the time: Lahi Brahimaj, said to have been a contact person between the local headquarters and the KLA’s general staff, and Idriz Balaj, a close relative of Haradinaj, who prosecutors say was head of a special unit in the area known as the “Black Eagles”.


Brahimaj and Balaj each face 35 counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war. Like Haradinaj, although they may not have personally participated in all the incidents in question, they are charged on the basis that the atrocities arose from a “joint criminal enterprise” in which they played an active part.


Haradinaj was given provisional release in June 2005. Brahimaj’s lawyer told the court that a request for provisional release of his client would be filed on September 16.