Tuta and Stela Sentences Confirmed

TU No 451, 05-May-06

Tuta and Stela Sentences Confirmed

TU No 451, 05-May-06

The two were found guilty in March 2003 of involvement in the ethnic cleansing of Mostar in 1993-94.



Tuta, who set up the Convicts Battalion - a unit within the Croat Defence Council, HVO, which functioned as the civil and military authority in Croat-controlled parts of Bosnia - received a 20-year sentence. Stela, who commanded a so-called anti-terrorist group within the battalion, received 18 years.



The battalion helped push Serbs out of Mostar in 1992 and then spearheaded a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Muslims in the city. Muslim detainees and prisoners of war were tortured at the Heliodrom, a former air base nearby. And four Muslim prisoners of war were found to have been given Croat uniforms and replica wooden rifles in order to act as "decoys" to draw enemy fire.



The appeals judges found that the trial chamber had made a number of errors when considering the case, and they dismissed some of the original convictions as a result. However, Judge Fausto Pocar stressed that these errors "had no impact on the sentence".



Most of the grounds for appeal put forward by the two accused were dismissed. And the appeals chamber confirmed that the sentences handed down were "within the range that a reasonable trial chamber could have ordered".



Towards the end of the appeals hearing, Stela attempted to cut in, declaring that the judgement was "poor justice".
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