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Krajisnik Appeal Ruling Imminent

Both the prosecution and defence have appealed judgement handed down in 2006.
By Simon Jennings
Appeals judges at the Hague tribunal will next week deliver their judgement in the case of the former president of the Bosnian Serb assembly, Momcilo Krajisnik.

In September 2006, Krajisnik was found guilty of acts of persecution, murder, and extermination carried out against non-Serbs in Bosnia in 1991 and 1992 as part of a joint criminal plan “to ethnically recompose the territories targeted by the Bosnian-Serb leadership by drastically reducing the proportion of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats”. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison.

“Mr Krajisnik wanted the Muslim and Croat populations moved out of Bosnian-Serb territories in large numbers, and accepted that a heavy price of suffering, death, and destruction was necessary to achieve Serb domination,” ruled the judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY.

Krajisnik was found responsible for the killing of approximately 3,000 Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, as well as for the forcible removal of more than 100,000 non-Serbs from large parts of Bosnia.

In its judgement, the trial chamber found that during 1992, Krajisnik was an active member of the wartime five-member presidency of the entity that later became Republika Srpska, RS, under the leadership of former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic.

“[Krajisnik] conducted himself as a regular member of the Presidency, and was accepted as such by the other members,” concluded judges.

Both the prosecution and defence appealed the judges’ verdict at a hearing on August 21, 2008.

In his appeal, Krajisnik sought to distance himself from the Bosnian Serb presidency and its actions on the ground following the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

“From the very beginning of my political work, I was committed to preserving peace in Bosnia Hercegovina and reaching an acceptable political solution,” Krajisnik told judges.

Alan Dershowitz and Nathan Dershowitz, who are defending Krajisnik against the accusations that he took part in a joint criminal plan, said that while their client advocated Serb political interests during 1991 and 1992, this did not amount to involvement or support of the crimes that took place.

Karadzic, who is in custody in The Hague awaiting trial on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, testified in support of Krajisnik before the appeals chamber on November 2008, telling judges that Krajisnik was not part of the decision process within the Bosnian Serb presidency during the war.

He said that the minutes of meetings that suggested otherwise were erroneous.

The prosecution, meanwhile, has appealed the 27-year sentence as too lenient, and is calling for a life term.

To support this, prosecutor Peter Kremer argued that Krajisnik was “one of the driving forces” behind a “massive widespread systematic ethnic cleansing of a large part of Bosnia Hercegovina”.

An appeal was also launched by Colin Nicholls – an amicus curiae, or friend of the court – who argued that proceedings against Krajisnik had not been fair.

Nicholls, a lawyer assigned to Krajisnik after he fired his previous defence counsel Nicholas Stewart, said the defendant had had “no prospect of a fair trial” due to Stewart’s lack of preparation, while the judges’ unwillingness to intervene had resulted in a miscarriage of justice.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, argued that Krajisnik had received a fair trial after judges allowed Stewart more time to prepare.

Appeals judges will deliver their verdict on March 17.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.