Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Trials of Milan and Sredoje Lukic Joined

By Caroline Tosh in London (TU No 511, 20-July-07)
By IWPR
The trials of Bosnian Serbs Milan Lukic and Sredoje Lukic will be joined following a decision to revoke the transfer of Sredoje Lukic’s case to Bosnia.



“The Referral Bench considered that this was in the interest of justice, as the two cases are factually very closely related,” said a press release from the court, on July 20.



“It also noted the Prosecution’s argument that separate trials would have risked increasing the trauma for witnesses, who would have had to testify twice,” it continued.



The two were originally indicted together in October 1998, along with Mitar Vasiljevic, for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 conflict.



Vasiljevic was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment at the tribunal after a final judgement on February 25, 2004.



The indictment states that Milan Lukic was in charge of Bosnian Serb paramilitary group the White Eagles, or Avengers, operating in Visegrad in south-eastern Bosnia, which allegedly “worked with local police and military units in exacting a reign of terror upon the local Muslim population”.



Sredoje Lukic, Milan’s cousin, was also a member of the unit.



According to the indictment, in one incident, a group of armed men - including the two accused - murdered some 70 Bosnian Muslim women, children and elderly men by barricading them in a room of a house, before setting it ablaze, and firing at anyone who tried to escape through windows.



On April 5, 2007, the tribunal referred the case of Milan Lukic and Sredoje Lukic back to Bosnia to face trial there.



As the tribunal winds down, lower-level suspects are being sent back to be tried under national jurisdiction.



Milan Lukic appealed against the decision to transfer his case, and last week, his appeal was upheld after appeals judges decided he should be tried in The Hague.



“In light of the notorious role played by paramilitary organisations and their leaders during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and in light of the [UN] Security council’s recognition that the Tribunal should try at least some of these leaders, the Appeals Chamber considers that the Appellant's case should be retained by the tribunal," the appeal judges said in their decision.



Based on the allegations, said judges, Milan Lukic would “perhaps be the most significant paramilitary leader tried by the tribunal to date”.



The appeals judges said that in light of the granted appeal, it would open to the Referral Bench to reconsider referring Sredoje Lukic’s case back to Bosnia “on the grounds that it would be judicially more appropriate for both cases to be heard by the same judicial body”.



The tribunal has so far referred eight cases, involving 13 people, to be tried in national courts in the former Yugoslavia.



Caroline Tosh is an IWPR reporter in London