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Prosecutors Want Tougher Sentences for Bosnian Officers

Former commanders were jailed a year ago for failing to take action against subordinates suspected of crimes.
Prosecutors have appealed the sentences given to two Bosnian army officers convicted of failing to prevent war crimes, and want them to serve twice as long in prison.

Enver Hadzihasanovic, formerly in charge of the Bosnian Army’s 3rd Corps, and Amir Kubura, ex-commander of the 7th Muslim Brigade, were jailed for five and two and a half years respectively in March 2006 for failing to punish the crimes of their subordinates.

Kubura was found guilty of failing to prevent or punish looting by his troops in the Ovnak region in June 1993 and in Vares later that year. He was acquitted on charges that his brigade destroyed property, but the prosecutors have appealed that acquittal, saying troops under his command broke into shops.

Hadzihasanovic was convicted of failing to prevent war crimes committed by the El Mujahed detachment, which was a force of foreign Muslim volunteers formally under his control.

His defence team has appealed the trial chamber’s verdict that he failed to take “the necessary and reasonable” measures to prevent or punish the foreign soldiers carrying out brutal killings in Orasac and Bugojno.

His lawyers disputed the court’s conclusion that the foreign volunteers were under the control of his 3rd Corps, and argued that his failure to use his power to stop the crimes was “due to a lack of ability to prevent or punish”.

The defence says Hadzihasanovic was not even allowed into the mujahedin camp.

In its response, the prosecution contended that Hadzihasanovic could have used force against the mujahedin to prevent their crimes because his troops included military police and far outnumbered the foreign volunteers. According to the prosecution, Hadzihasanovic “didn’t lack strength, [but] lacked will” to prevent the crimes.

With regard to his conviction for not punishing the cruel treatment of prisoners at the Zenica Music School in central Bosnia, the prosecution maintained that Hadzihasanovic knew of “alarming information that his subordinates were committing mistreatment” but took no action.

The defence lawyers, meanwhile, argued that when Hadzihasanovic was told about the mistreatment of prisoners he took “reasonable measures” and investigated it but any malpractice was concealed from the 3rd Corps command by the perpetrators.

At the conclusion of the hearing this week, the presiding judge of the appeal chamber announced that a judgment would be delivered soon.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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