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Prosecution and Defence Appeal Galic Judgment

Both say Bosnian Serb commander’s 20-year sentence should be reviewed.
By Katy Glassborow
Defence and prosecution lawyers appealing Bosnian Serb army general Stanislav Galic’s 20-year prison sentence this week agreed on one thing - the initial judgment reached by the tribunal’s judges in 2003 was not satisfactory.

Head-to-head before the Appeals Chamber on August 29, the defence and prosecution both argued that Galic’s sentence of 20 years in prison was not consistent with his actions in the 44-months of violence in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, during the 1992-1995 war.

In December 2003, the former commander of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, SRK, was found guilty of participating in a campaign of sniping and shelling, and of unlawfully committing the crimes of terror upon civilians, murder and inhumane acts.

On appeal this week, his defence pushed for General Galic to be found not guilty of these crimes, while the prosecution called for an increased sentence of life imprisonment.

It is estimated that over 11,000 people were killed during the protracted shelling of Sarajevo, with thousands more wounded, in one of the best- documented episodes of the Bosnian war. The world looked on as the city lived through the trauma of the constant threat of death.

This week, Galic’s defence called for him to be found not guilty and be released from custody. Failing that, his counsel Mara Pilipovic called for a retrial or, at the very least, a new, reduced sentence.

Bringing 19 separate grounds for appeal, the defence claimed that the three trial chamber judges had erred when they found that there had been a campaign of deliberate and terrorising attacks against civilians in Sarajevo. One of the trial judges, Rafael Nieto-Navia, has said it could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt that General Galic had actually ordered the deliberate attacks on civilians.

The defence remained adamant that the SRK always shot at military targets. As an example, they mentioned the city’s main hospital - which had been shelled repeatedly during the Serb siege - and said it had been a legitimate military target because Bosnian army tanks and armored vehicles were stationed outside it.

They also challenged a conclusion made by the trial judges in 2003 about the mortar shell explosion in the Markale market in downtown Sarajevo in February 1994, killing over 60 people and injuring more than a hundred.

In the summary of their judgment against General Galic, the trial judges said they had examined the investigations conducted by the UN, local investigators, and experts called by the defence and prosecution, and concluded that the mortar shell was fired from territory controlled by the SRK.

But on appeal this week, the defence counsel challenged this judgment, and suggested that weapons experts had not agreed on where the shell was fired from.

Also brought into question was the conviction that General Galic’s acts equated to spreading terror. However, the prosecution said that the indiscriminate nature of the Sarajevo attacks proves that their primary purpose was to terrorise civilians.

In fact, the prosecution described the initial judgment of General Galic - who had been in command of 18,000 troops from September 1992 to August 1994 - as “entirely inappropriate”, and pressed for his sentence to be increased to life imprisonment.

Prosecutor Helen Brady said that as commander of the SRK, the general had ordered a campaign of deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on the 300,000 inhabitants of Sarajevo, with the objective of terrorising them.

She also pointed out that at the Hague tribunal, the crime of spreading terror is considered one of the most grave an individual can stand accused of.

The appeal only lasted one day, and according to the tribunal’s press office, a decision “will be rendered in due course”.

Katy Glassborow is an IWPR reporter at The Hague.

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