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Defence Wants Zelenovic Sentence Reduced

Lawyers for defendant say court did not give sufficient weight to his guilty plea.
By Brendan McKenna
Dragan Zelenović, a former member of a Bosnian Serb territorial defence unit, who in January pleaded guilty to rape, appeared again before the Hague tribunal this week at an appeals hearing.



Lawyers for Zelenović called for the appeals chamber to reduce his 15-year sentence, handed down in April this year after Zelenović was found guilty of personally committing nine rapes, two instances of gang rape and one of aiding and abetting torture and rape.



The defence lawyers argued that in setting the sentence the trial chamber didn’t give sufficient weight to the fact that Zelenović’s plea meant that rape victims would not be traumatised for a second time by having to appear and testify before the tribunal.



The defence had argued at Zelenović’s sentencing hearing in February that a sentence of seven to ten years was sufficient, in part because Zelenović promised to cooperate with prosecutors in other cases. The prosecution recommended a ten- to 15-year sentence.



When Judge Alphons Orie handed down the sentence he said the trial chamber had considered a number of mitigating factors, including “the effect a guilty plea could have on establishing the truth and contributing to reconciliation in the region and the fact that a guilty plea relieves the victims of horrible crimes from reliving their trauma by being forced to give evidence in court”.



But those mitigating circumstances “do not in any way diminish the gravity of the crime”, said Orie at the time. “The trial chamber finds that the scale of the crimes committed was large and that Mr Zelenović's participation in the crimes was substantial.”



The appeals chamber is scheduled to hand down a verdict on the defence challenge on October 31.



While guarding and interrogating detained Muslims, Zelenović had been found guilty of four gang rapes, the rape of a 15-year-old on multiple occasions and aiding the gang rape of another woman by ten soldiers.



After his indictment, Zelenović fled to Russia under a false name to avoid arrest, but was apprehended by Russian authorities in August 2005. He was turned over to the Hague tribunal in June 2006.



Brendan McKenna is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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