Tadic Sentenced to 20 Years

In the Tribunal's first ruling in a contested trial, a Bosnian Serb is sentenced for crimes against humanity.

Tadic Sentenced to 20 Years

In the Tribunal's first ruling in a contested trial, a Bosnian Serb is sentenced for crimes against humanity.

Saturday, 19 July, 1997

Dusko Tadic was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment on July 14 for the conscious and willing "persecution on political, racial and/or religious grounds." In short, a crime against humanity. This was the first judgement by the International Tribunal in a trial fully contested by the accused.

Except for the announcement of sentences, the most dramatic moment of the judgement was when the presiding judge, Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, asked the accused directly: "You committed these offences intentionally and with sadistic brutality using knives, whips, iron bars, the butt of a pistol, sticks, kicking the victims and tightening a noose around the neck of one until he became unconscious. Why?"

Judge McDonald paused as if expecting an answer. Tadic, however, remained mute and dispassionate. After several moments, still looking at Tadic, Judge McDonald went on: "The testimony of one witness explains your pattern of cruel and brutal conduct against your former friends and neighbours. The witness testified that you threatened that the area 'would be a greater Serbia . . . and that [they], Muslims, will not be there, that there will be no place for them'. And, this came to pass: for before the conflict opstina Prijedor contained approximately 50,000 Muslims and 6,000 Croats, whereas only 6,000 Muslims and 3,000 Croats remained after the ethnic cleansing. Thus, you embraced the extreme principles of Serb nationalism and you played an increasingly major role in the SDS [Serbian Democratic Party]."

Judge McDonald then gave the sentences for each of the counts. First the judge passed sentences on ten counts covering five separate offences of beatings in the Omarska camp and the villages of Jaskici and Sivci. These qualified as both crimes against humanity (cruel treatment) and violations of the law or customs of war (inhumane acts). Sentences ranged from six to ten years of imprisonment, totalling seventy seven years. The final sentence was 20 years imprisonment for persecution, the most serious charge Tadic faced.

Here Tadic's guilt rested on the fact that, according to the judgement, he played an active part in all phases of the attack on Kozarac-a small town of 4,000 inhabitants, 90 per cent of whom were Muslim-assisted in the collection and forced transfer of the male villagers, killed two Muslim policemen by slitting their throats and stabbing each one several times, and participated in the beating of prisoners at Omarska and Keraterm camps, which were "severe and contained the common factors of humiliation, ethnic persecution and physical violence."

The Trial Chamber stressed the "willingness of Dusko Tadic to perpetrate the crimes . . . and his awareness of, and enthusiastic support for, the attack on the non-Serb population . . . This awareness and support, manifested in his actions, gave rise to Dusko Tadic's liability for crimes against humanity rather than just war crimes, and is a significant factor in the imposition of sentence." The court also noted Tadic's complete failure to co-operate with the Tribunal prosecutor.

The defence claimed that Tadic was "an intelligent, responsible and mature adult, raised by his parents in a spirit of ethnic and religious tolerance and capable of compassion towards and sensitivity for his fellows". As the Trial Chamber noted "this, if anything, aggravates more than mitigates: for such a man to have committed these crimes requires an even greater evil will on his part than that of a lesser man."

The only mitigating factor, according to the judgement, was the context in which his acts were committed: an armed conflict of horrific consequences, and, particularly, "the virulent propaganda campaign that recalled real and imagined abuses by one religious group against the other," and which portrayed non-Serbs as enemies and less than human. Nevertheless Judge McDonald stressed: "You responded to this campaign and you must bear responsibility for your criminal conduct. To condone your actions even when committed in this context . . . is to give effect to a base view of morality and invite anarchy."

Each of the 11 sentences is to be served concurrently meaning that Tadic will serve only the longest sentence. The Trial Chamber also recommended that, "unless exceptional circumstances apply, Dusko Tadic's sentence should not be commuted or otherwise reduced to a term of imprisonment less than ten years from the date of this judgement or the final determination of any appeal, whichever is the later."

The defence has already indicated that it will appeal against the sentence which they described as "draconian". The prosecutor's office expressed "satisfaction" with the "substantial penalty" of 20 years' imprisonment."

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