ICTY: Appeals Chamber Upholds Convictions in the Popović et al. Case


The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Today, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) completed its largest case to date. The Appeals Chamber issued its Judgment in the Popović et al case, upholding the convictions of five senior Bosnian Serbian military officials for crimes perpetrated by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 following the takeover of the protected areas of Srebrenica and Žepa.

The case concerned crimes committed in July 1995 after the fall of Srebrenica and Žepa in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Trial proceedings involved a total of seven accused, who were convicted for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of wars, in part through several Joint Criminal Enterprises. Five of the accused appealed to the judgment of the Trial Chamber.

The Chamber dismissed most of the challenges raised by the Appellants. It, however, granted the appeal of Miletić regarding men who crossed Drina and reversed his conviction for this relevant part. It also reversed convictions of Beara, Popović and Nikolić regarding the killing of six Bosnian Muslim men near Trnovo. It further granted Miletić appeal regarding sentencing.

In dismissing one of Pandurević’s challenges regarding aiding and abetting, the Appeals Chamber recalled that “specific direction” is not an element of aiding and abetting under customary international law.

The Chamber responded to Mr. Nikolić’ assertion that the Trial Chamber erred in failing to identify State policy as an essential element of genocide, that a similar question had already been considered by the Tribunal, in which it was decided that a policy is not a legal requirement, and found that it followed from this that State policy is indeed not a legal requirement of genocide

The Chamber granted by majority the Prosecution challenge and entered convictions for conspiracy to commit genocide for Popović and Beara. The Appeals Chamber also granted the Prosecution’s ground of appeal regarding “opportunistic” killings in Potočari, and entered, Judge Pocar dissenting, a conviction against Miletić for murder as a violation of the laws or customs of war for these killings.

The Chamber further granted in part the Prosecution’s appeal and reversed Mr. Pandurević’ acquittal for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war, and entered new convictions against Mr Pandurević for these crimes.

The Chamber affirmed the life sentences of Popović and Ljubisa Beara who were found guilty of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, violations of the laws or customs of war, and crimes against humanity through their participation in a Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE).

Drago Nikolić’ sentence of 35 years of imprisonment for aiding and abetting genocide, and crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war through his participation in a JCE was affirmed as well.

Judge Patrick Robinson and Judge Fausto Pocar appended partially dissenting opinions, and Judge Mandiaye Niang appended separate and dissenting opinions.