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Prosecution Appeals Sentence for Lukic Defence Member

Former case manager previously had eight months of one-year contempt sentence suspended
By Rachel Irwin
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	<p> Jelena Rasic in the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)</p></p>
    <p> &amp;amp;lt;p&amp;amp;gt; Jelena Rasic in the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)&amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;</p>

Prosecutors at the Hague tribunal have appealed against a decision to suspend eight months of a one-year prison sentence imposed upon Jelena Rasic, a former defence case manager who was convicted on contempt charges in late January.

Rasic pleaded guilty to paying potential witnesses in exchange for their false statements on behalf of Bosnian Serb defendant Milan Lukic, a former reserve policeman. The statements, which did not end up being used at trial, were meant to provide a fake alibi for Lukic, who was subsequently found guilty in July 2009 of personally killing at least 132 Bosniak civilians in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad, more than 100 of whom were trapped in two barricaded houses and burned alive.

Lukic was sentenced to life in prison. His cousin and co-accused Sredoje Lukic was given a 30-year sentence. The case is currently on appeal.

At Rasic’s February sentencing hearing, the judges said they decided to suspend eight months of the 12-month prison sentence because she would be the only female detainee in the Hague detention unit, and this would result in “quasi-solitary confinement” which could have a “negative impact on her well-being”. (For more, see Member of Lukic Defence Gets 12 Months for Contempt.)

However, in an appeal brief filed on March 16, the prosecution argued that the bench erred in their decision to suspend part of the sentence, among other reasons because that kind of decision can only be taken by the president of the tribunal.

In addition, prosecutors pointed out that the bench had already rejected Rasic’s undisclosed medical condition as a mitigating factor for sentencing, but then used her “well-being” as a reason to shorten the prison term.

“The trial chamber’s characterisation of ‘quasi-solitary confinement’ implies a right to socialise with same-sex inmates,” the appeals brief states.

Prosecutors also argue that the United Nations detention unit is not meant to be permanent and that all detainees are transferred to prisons in cooperating states once proceedings are completed.

Furthermore, they said that the prosecution did not have access to Rasic’s confidential medical reports until five weeks after her sentence was handed down, and thus did not have the opportunity “to examine these reports and to make submissions relating to them before the trial chamber had determined the sentence”.

The appeals chamber should “quash the partial suspension of Rasic’s sentence and impose an immediate term of 12 months of imprisonment,” the brief concludes.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.