Briefly Noted

Compiled by IWPR staff and contributors (TU No 412, 24-Jun-05)

Briefly Noted

Compiled by IWPR staff and contributors (TU No 412, 24-Jun-05)

Friday, 18 November, 2005

The prosecutors announced they had have received the file from the Belgrade government, who submitted it after years of relentless pressuring both form the prosecutors and the judges, who kept on issuing numerous orders for its production.

The file was hoped to contain proof of Mladic being in active Yugoslav army service and on the Belgrade’s payroll throughout the war in Bosnia - including the crucial summer of 1995, when the troops under his command killed some 8000 Muslim men and boys in the first legally established case of genocide in Europe after the Holocaust.

Such a proof would represent the final missing piece in a complex mosaic of Milosevic’s links to the wars in neighbouring republics.

But the file, the copies of which were handed out by the court’s press service on June 24, seems to pose more questions that it answers. Apart from offering a curious detail that in the beginning of his career the man, who would become known for his rabid Serb nationalism chose to identify his ethnicity as “Yugoslav”, the file gives the detailed descriptions of the duties Mladic had and the promotions he received while serving in the federal forces. But it ends abruptly on April 24, 1992, when he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general.

Milosevic’s government always maintained that in the summer of 1992 the Yugoslav army withdrew from Bosnia, leaving there only those soldiers who were either born in Bosnia or wished to stay there. Both during and after Milosevic’s time in power, Belgrade always denied having institutional links with the rebel Serb armies in the neighbouring republics or giving them financial support.

But curiously enough, a brief official note at the bottom of the just published file suggests Mladic was actually “discharged from the professional military service” on February 28, 2002 – ten years after the Belgrade’s alleged retreat form Bosnia. The file, however, gives no answer as to what Mladic’s status was between the last recorded duties in 1992 and his discharge from active service ten years later.

Several high-ranking Milosevic insiders have already testified that Belgrade kept financing the Serb armies in Bosnia and Croatia through two clandestine personnel centres, maintained all their officers on Yugoslav army’s staff and payroll and approved promotions.

***

Milomir Stakic - former president of the Prijedor municipality in northwestern Bosnia, and the only Hague tribuinal indictee so far to receive life sentence - will present an appeal to Hague tribunal judges on October 4-5, judges announced at a status conference about his case.

In July 2003, Stakic was found guilty for planning and running a mass campaign to expel the non-Serb population of the northwestern Bosnian town of Prijedor, which included extermination, murders and persecution. He was initially charged with genocide, but the judges dropped those charges, saying that the pattern of crimes against Muslims in the region, albeit horrific, did not constitute genocide.

Stakic was the leading political figure during the takeover of Prijedor in 1992. He was held responsible for more than 1,500 killings, of which 486 victims were named. At least 20,000 non-Serbs either fled Prijedor or were deported.

So far he is the only accused to have been given the most severe sentence a trial chamber can impose.

Both parties appealed the sentencing in July 2003. The defence filed an appeal against the length of the sentence and the prosecution was not satisfied with the decision to acquit Stakic of genocide.

More than half of the status conference was held in private session.

***

At a status conference in the case of General Dragomir Milosevic, a former commander of the Bosnian Serb army’s Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, who is charged with responsibility for the “second round” of shelling and sniping of civilians of Sarajevo during 1994 and 1995, the prosecution and defence argued about the possible transfer of the case to a local court in the Balkans.

Milosevic arrived in The Hague in December 2004. His case is one of those being proposed for transfer to the Sarajevo War Crimes Chamber under Rule 11bis of the tribunal’s statute, as part of the prosecutor’s strategy to finish all cases before 2008. But the arguments for and against the transfer have not yet been heard by one of the trial chambers.

During this status conference, presiding judge Carmel Agius expressed interest in whether a local Bosnian judiciary would be able to proceed with charges based on the notion of “command responsibility”, which holds that senior officers are responsibility for what their subordinates did, and for not taken measures to investigate or prevent war crimes or crimes against humanity.

General Milosevic’s joint indictee, and predecessor as the commander of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, General Stanislav Galic, has already been sentenced to 20 years in prison by the tribunal for the first phase of attacks on Sarajevo and its inhabitants. Appeals against his sentence have been filed in his case.

The prosecution argued at the status conference that there would be no problem with cases in Sarajevo being judged on similar grounds to those at the tribunal. But the defence warned that definition of command responsibility is still to be determined in the Bosnian courts.

The defence also complained that they had been given more than 3000 documents by the prosecution, but that “there are not enough resources that can help, so the healthy head can find what’s needed between those 3000 documents”.

The judge recommended that both sides meet and determine again the process of publishing the evidence.

General Milosevic told the judge that he has personal problems. He said his wife’s medical problems are connected to the possibility that his case is going to be transferred to Sarajevo, “the city from which she was deported”.

The next status conference will be held in October, unless a decision on the case transfer is made before then.

***

At a status conference in the case of Mitar Rasevic and Savo Todovic, charged in connection with their allegedly senior roles in the notorious KP Dom prison in the Bosnian town of Foca, the prosecution asked for permission to expand the indictment against them.

In the indictment, Savo Todovic is described as the second command at the prison camp and his duties are said to have included choosing which prisoners were to be killed or tortured, sent to do forced labour or be exchanged for Serb’s prisoners.

Rasevic faces an amended indictment, which alleges that he was responsible for widespread torture and beatings of prisoners and keeping prisoners in solitary confinement. He was the guards’ commander and led at least 37 prison guards.

As part of the tribunal’s policy to finish cases before a UN-imposed deadline of 2008, an application to transfer their case to the Sarajevo War Crimes Chamber – along with that of another man, Gojko Jankovic, who, as a sub-commander of the military police, is charged separately with the rape and torture of non-Serb women in Foca – has been heard, but a decision is yet to be made.

Their defence lawyers have argued that the charges were too serious for the cases to be suitable for referral to a local court in the Balkans.

The commander of the prison facility in Foca, Milorad Krnojelac, has already been tried before the tribunal and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Judge Carmel Agius of Malta made it clear that the preparations for the trial should continue, irrespective of the possible transfer. He set the next date for a status conference for October 22, at which the last pre-trial phase would begin.

***

Lawyers representing former Bosnian Serb politician Miroslav Deronjic, who has already pleaded guilty to persecutions as a crime against humanity, this week urged appeals judges to consider the mitigating circumstances in his case and reduce the ten-year sentence handed down to him.

Deronjic, who was president of an emergency local government body known as a crisis staff in the town of Bratunac during the Bosnian war, admits responsibility for an attack on the Bosnian Muslim village of Glogova in May 1992 in which some 2,000 residents were expelled and some 65 unarmed men executed.

As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, he has also given a 70-page written witness statement describing in detail how Belgrade helped ethnically cleanse parts of eastern Bosnia in the early stages of the war. The document also provides key facts about the murders of some 7,500 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb troops in the town of Srebrenica in July 1995.

In addition, Deronjic has appeared as an important witness in other trials at the tribunal.

In return, prosecutors dropped a series of additional charges against Deronjic and agreed to recommend a maximum sentence of ten years. In March last year, trial judges went along with this recommendation, despite comments by presiding judge Wolfgang Schomburg that the accused deserved “no less than 20 years” in prison.

But Deronjic’s defence team, who originally recommended a six-year prison term, continue to insist that his sentence should be reduced.

At this week’s appeals hearing, Deronjic’s lawyer Slobodan Cvijetic argued that, in making its sentencing decision, the trial chamber had failed to give enough weight to the extent of his client’s cooperation with the tribunal.

Given a chance to speak in court, Deronjic agreed. "I did not skip a single element of my actions", he said, adding that he had shown a willingness to incriminate himself “to the point of masochism”.

He also insisted that he never intended for the murders to take place in Glogova, and expressed sorrow for the victims.

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