Bosnian Wrongly Acquitted of Genocide Charge, Court Rules
In a ruling seen as important to future genocide cases, an appellate chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia found grounds Thursday for convicting a Bosnian Serb of genocide--even though it refused to reverse his acquittal on that charge.
Goran Jelisic, who ran a detention camp in northern Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992, was sentenced in 1999 to 40 years in prison after confessing to murder and other crimes against humanity. He was acquitted of genocide.
On Thursday, the appeals chamber said the lower court was wrong to dismiss the genocide charge. But it upheld the 40-year sentence, saying the tribunal lacked the resources to retry Jelisic.
The lower court erred when it found inadequate evidence of genocide against Muslims in Brcko, a town near the Croatian border, the appellate panel said.
Jelisic, who called himself “Serb Adolf” after Adolf Hitler, was convicted of 12 murders but had boasted of at least 83.
Prosecutors had lodged an appeal for a retrial on the genocide charge, while Jelisic’s attorneys launched a counter-appeal seeking to reduce the 40-year sentence against their client, who was 23 when he committed the crimes.
On the genocide issue, the trial court had said the evidence did not prove Jelisic’s intent to kill a large number of Muslims, even within his limited area of control.
But the appeals chamber disagreed. It said Jelisic’s personal intention to kill Muslims--because they were Muslims--could have been enough to prove genocide.
“The existence of a plan or policy is not a legal ingredient of the crime of genocide, although it may be evidentially of assistance,” the five-member panel ruled.
Jelisic believed he was following superiors’ orders to “eradicate the Muslims in Brcko” and “regardless of any such plan, he was himself a one-man genocide mission,” the appeals court said.
This week, the Balkan tribunal began proceedings against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who faces charges including murder and persecution of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
On Thursday, a European Union spokesman said Milosevic’s wife, Mirjana Markovic, can visit her husband at the Netherlands prison where he is being held, even though she is on a list of a dozen Yugoslavs banned from traveling to EU nations. U.N. regulations allow family members to visit detainees at the tribunal.
In addition to his wife, Milosevic will soon be visited by an international team of lawyers.
Toronto lawyer Christopher Black, who is defending a Rwandan general accused of genocide, said Thursday that he had been contacted through Markovic and was traveling to The Hague.
At his arraignment Tuesday, Milosevic declined counsel and refused to enter a plea. But Black said he might change his mind.