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Jelisic Sentencing Hearing

Tribunal Update 151: Last Week in The Hague (November 8-13, 1999)
By IWPR

After listening to the prosecution evidence the judges ruled the charge of "genocide" unproven and acquitted Jelisic on that charge. The judges ruled Jelisic had acted with "discriminatory" and not "genocidal intent" (Tribunal Update No. 148). The prosecution has lodged an appeal with the Trial Chamber to overrule this judgement.


Last week, the so-called "sentencing hearing" began in accordance with the Tribunal's Rules of Procedure and Evidence. The prosecution and defence then began presenting evidence they consider relevant to determining the appropriate sentence.


This last week the defence witnesses have been giving evidence, many of whom are Bosniaks. The majority of the witnesses gave their evidence in closed sessions. Two, however, gave evidence publicly - but with their identities protected.


These witnesses testified that Jelisic was "forced" to kill Bosniaks and Croats in Brcko, and that he had never demonstrated any hatred towards the members of other ethnic groups. On the contrary, they claimed, Jelisic had helped numerous Bosniaks and Croats.


Jelisic's school friend, a Bosniak told the judges that the accused had helped him and his family to flee from Bijeljina to Croatia. "If it had not been for Jelisic, maybe a half of my family would not be among the living today", he said.


He refuted the judges' suggestion that Jelisic helped him because the witness's wife was of Serb nationality. "Jelisic helped other Muslims as well," the witness said.


The other protected witness claimed that the Serb police had forced Jelisic to kill. The Prosecutor then requested that the witness should specify what the accused was "forced" to do. He showed him the photographs of Jelisic shooting one victim in the back of the head from a point blank range, and asked him: "You didn't know that Jelisic was doing this?" "No," the victim replied.


When asked by the judges, whether after learning about Jelisic's crimes, he still had the same positive opinion about him, the witness replied that "in spite the accused admission, those crimes still looked incredible" to him.


A Bosnian witness, his school friend, whom Jelisic had helped financially in 1993, stated that her opinion of Jelisic had not changed despite his admission that he killed. When the judges' insisted that she say whether she condemns the killings, she replied that she still "cannot accept that a person like him did such things."


A witness from Serbia - in whose house Jelisic had stayed from the end of May to September 1992, immediately after he left Brcko and the camp there - testified that Jelisic had psychological "problems" because he could not bear the maltreatment and the killing of innocent people in Brcko.


This witness said that she was not interested at the time in what was happening in Brcko, and that she learnt only now, at the Tribunal, what actually took place there. Nonetheless, she sticks to her belief that Jelisic did not kill on his own free will.


The sentencing hearing will continue the week commencing November 22. The defence is expected to call one more witness before the prosecution presents its case.


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