Dutch State Targeted in Appeal Over Srebrenica Massacre

Image: TOPSHOTS-BOSNIA-WAR-SREBRENICA-ANNIVERSARYThis Thursday, the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves victims’ group will launch an appeal in The Hague against a 2014 verdict which held the Netherlands responsible for the deaths of about 300 Bosniaks after the fall of Srebrenica.

The district court in The Hague ruled in July 2014 that Dutch peacekeeping troops had failed to protect 300 Bosniaks after Srebrenica fell to the Bosnian Serb Army on July 11, 1995, and ordered the Netherlands to pay compensation.

But Marco Gerritsen, the lawyer for the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves association said that the Netherlands should be found guilty of responsibility for the deaths of all the Bosniaks from Srebrenica who were killed after the enclave fell – more than 7,000 men and boys.

After Srebrenica was overrun by Serb forces, thousands of Bosniaks sought refuge in the UN base just outside Srebrenica, at Potocari, where the Dutch peacekeepers were stationed.

However, while the women and young children were transported to a Bosniak-majority area, the Dutch soldiers handed more than 7000 men and boys over to the Bosnian Serb army, telling them that they would be safe. All of them subsequently got killed by the Bosnian Serb army.

The 2014 verdict said that on the night of July 12, 1995 or the morning of July 13, the Dutch authorities “knew or should have known” that there was a possibility that the Bosniaks would be killed, so they were found guilty of the deaths of about 300 people who were handed over from that moment onwards.

But the verdict acquitted the Netherlands of responsibility for the deaths of Bosniaks who had been handed over to Serb policemen and soldiers prior to that.

Gerristen said that during the appeal he would present a document dated July 11, in which the Dutch defence minister said he was afraid for the safety of the Bosniaks.

“Therefore, there is a responsibility of the Netherlands for the death of all Bosniaks whom they handed over,” Gerritsen said.

For Marco Gerritsen, the Dutch authorities were only concerned about the safety of their own soldiers, so “many civilians got killed” thanks to the hurried departure of the Dutch soldiers and the handover of the Bosniaks.

 

Switzerland: Arrests and Possible Extraditions of Two Kosovan War Crimes Suspects

Kosovo WarLast week, the Swiss authorities have arrested two Kosovans wanted by Serbia for suspected war crimes.

The men, whose identity was kept confidential, are suspected of committing war crimes as members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the 1998–99 war.

The first man is suspected of participating in armed attacks in 1998 against two villages situated in Kosovo.

Serbia accuses him of a range of crimes, including murder, rape and conducting illegal arrests.

The second man was arrested during a routine check in Geneva and is suspected of having killed a civilian in 1999.

The Serbian authorities have requested their extradition but both men have refused it.

Moreover, Kosovo insists that it should handle cases of suspected war crimes committed by Kosovan citizens, and not Serbia.

In that vein, the Kosovo Justice Minister sent a letter to his Swiss counterpart to object to any plans to extradite the men to Serbia.

The Swiss Justice Ministry confirmed that the Swiss Justice Minister had received a letter, and had responded, addressing his concerns.

100th Newsletter of the ICTY Association of Defence Counsel

ADC-ICTY-300x300The Association of Defence Counsel Practising Before the ICTY (ADC-ICTY) has published the 100th issue of its newsletter.

This edition covers the recent developments in the Mladić case as well as in the Karadžić case, where the Defence filed two motions before the Appeals Chamber of the MICT (Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals) requesting on one hand the Prosecution to disclose statements to the Defence and on the other hand access to Ex Parte Filings in Completed Cases.

The newsletter also addresses the recent developments which took place at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as well as in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where a war crimes trial is held against a former Bosnian Presidency Member, Borislav Paravac, accused of having participated in a joint criminal enterprise, targeting the Bosniak and Croat civilian population in Doboj (Northern Bosnia) between May 1992 and the end of 1993.

The newsletter also contains an op-ed analysis on the recent conviction of Radovan Karadžić and whether his conviction impedes Ratko Mladić’s right to a fair trial.

French Court of Appeal Rules to Extradite Suspected War Criminal

Radomir SusnjarToday, the Paris Court of Appeal ruled to extradite Radomir Susjnar, a suspected Bosnian Serb paramilitary, to Bosnia-Herzegovina to face charges of crimes against humanity.

Bosnia-Herzegovina wants Susnjar to face accusations he was part of a Bosnian Serb paramilitary group that massacred 59 Bosnian Muslims in the city of Visegrad in June 1992.

Witnesses say Susnjar personally locked the people – most of them women, children or elderly – inside a house and set it on fire. All but eight of them perished.

He was arrested in the Paris region in April 2014.

The court’s ruling in favour of extradition on international principles was a relief to victims, who had called on the court not to set precedent they feared would allow war criminals to find a safe haven in France. Continue reading

ICTY Releases Florence Hartmann

Florence HartmannThe International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) released French journalist Florence Hartmann from its prison in The Hague on Tuesday.

The journalist had spent five days in the prison, which is normally reserved for war crimes suspects and convicts.

Last Thursday, Ms. Hartmann was unexpectedly arrested by security officials of the Tribunal outside the court gates while she was talking with victims from the Bosnian war. Ms. Hartmann had come to The Hague to hear the verdict against Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader.

Ms. Hartmann was told that she had to serve a seven-day sentence because she had not paid a fine in a court judgment against her. Former press officer of the Tribunal, she was convicted of contempt of court in 2009 for having revealed in a book how tribunal judges had issued confidential decisions ruling that parts of the records provided by Serbia could be used in closed sessions of the court but had to be kept out of the public eye.

Ms. Hartmann had argued that victims had a right to know about the confidential agreement made between tribunal judges and Serbia.

After her release on Tuesday, Ms. Hartmann said what had angered the judges most was that she wrote that they had acted “unlawfully” and had therefore made their decisions confidential.

On Tuesday afternoon, the court freed Ms. Hartmann after her lawyer, Guénaël Mettraux, filed a motion for her release because she had served two-thirds of her sentence. Continue reading

Former Bosnian Commander Arrested Over Serbs’ Deaths

Sakib Mahmuljin

Sakib Mahmuljin

Today, former Bosnian Army commander Sakib Mahmuljin has been arrested on suspicion of failing to prevent Islamic volunteer fighters committing war crimes against Serb civilians and prisoners of war in 1995.

The Bosnian State Investigation and Protection Agency arrested Mahmuljin on suspicion that as the commander of the Bosnian Army Third Corps, during battles in the village of Vozuca near Zavidovici from May to October 1995, he failed to stop or punish crimes against civilians and prisoners of war.

According to the prosecution, “members of the El Mujahedin unit killed around 50 Serb prisoners who they had previously taken over from the Bosnian Army Third Corps units which captured them during the battles.”

The prosecution said that Mahmuljin had information that members of the El Mujahedin unit were preparing to commit these crimes.

Mahmuljin is also suspected of inhumanely treating 20 prisoners of war and civilians.

Mahmuljin will be handed over to the prosecution, which will then decide whether to file a custody motion.

 

Serbia Charges Eight Men over Srebrenica Massacre

Srebrenica MassacreProsecutors in Serbia have charged eight people over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

The men charged today belonged to a special Bosnian-Serb police unit that was operating in the eastern village of Kravica when the killings took place.

According to the prosecutors, they herded the mainly Muslim victims into a warehouse where they were killed with machine guns and grenades in an assault that lasted all night.

Those charged included the unit’s commander, Nedeljko Milidragovic, also known as Nedjo the Butcher, who was accused of giving the order for the killings and saying that “nobody should get out alive”.

Nedeljko Milidragovic was already facing genocide charges in Bosnia but has been able to live freely in Serbia because of the lack of an extradition treaty. However, the situation has changed in March when he and the seven other suspects were arrested as a result of co-operation between the war crimes court in Belgrade and its counterpart in Sarajevo.

The eight men could face a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Swiss Arrest of Former Bosnian Military Commander Without Legal Basis?

Naser Oric

Naser Oric

Swiss authorities followed improper procedure in their arrest of former Bosnian Muslim military commander Naser Oric in Geneva on Wednesday, said Bosnia’s Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic on Friday in Sarajevo.

Oric’s arrest is based on an international warrant issued by Serbia which alleges his participation in war crimes in the 1990’s. However the Bosnian authorities were surprised by the accusations, having received no information from Serbia. Moreover, Oric’s name had been deleted from the Interpol wanted list long ago.

In 2006, Oric was sentenced by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to two years in prison for not doing enough to prevent crimes committed against Serbs during the Balkan conflict. He was acquitted of all charges two years later.

The Bosnian Prime Minister urged Serbia on Friday to observe the provisions of a bilateral agreement dating from 2013, which calls for the process to be conducted in the suspect’s homeland – in this case Bosnia.

ICJ Dismisses Croatian and Serbian Genocide Claims

International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice

Today, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has rejected the claim of Croatia that Serbia committed genocide in Croatia in 1991, as well as the counter-claim by Serbia that the expulsion of more than 200,000 Serbs from Croatia constituted genocide.

Judge Peter Tomka, president of the ICJ, said that although both sides had carried out violent acts during the war, neither side had provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate the specific intent required for acts of genocide.

Both countries relied on the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention) for contending that the other country had committed genocide. The fact that the claims were based only on the Genocide Convention, implied that the Court had no power to rule on alleged breaches of other obligations under international law, not amounting to genocide, particularly those protecting human rights in armed conflict. Continue reading

ICJ: Judgment in the Croatia vs Serbia Genocide Case on 3 February 2015

International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will render its Judgment in the Croatia versus Serbia Genocide case on 3 February 2015, between 10:00 and 13:00.

In 1999, Croatia instituted proceedings before the ICJ against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now Serbia) for violations of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Croatia alleged that between 1991 and 1995, Serbia committed genocide relating to Croatia’s war of independence following the collapse of the former Yugoslavia.

In 2010 Serbia filed a counter-suit, alleging that Croatia committed genocide during and after Operation Storm when some 200,000 ethnic Serbs were forced to leave Croatia in 1995 when Zagreb launched a military operation to retake its territory.

iLawyer Wayne Jordash QC is Counsel for the Republic of Serbia (along with Professors William Schabas, Andreas Zimmerman, Christian Tams and others).