Former Bosnian Serb Army soldier Ranka Tomic, convicted of involvement in the torture and murder of a Bosnian Army nurse during the war in 1992, had her jail sentence reduced from five to three years on appeal.
Belgrade Appeals Court has reduced the sentence handed down to Ranka Tomic, a former captain of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Petrovac Women’s Front, from five to three years in prison.
Tomic was convicted in November 2018 of participation in the assault and killing of the captured Bosnian Army nurse, Karmena Kamencic.
Kamencic was already wounded in her leg and head when she was captured by the Bosnian Serb Army and handed over to the Petrovac Women’s Front in the Bosnian village of Radic in the western municipality of Bosanska Krupa, the indictment said.
It said Tomic ordered the wounded Kamencic to crawl on the ground naked and dig her own grave, as well as beating and humiliating the captive.
Kamencic was then taken to a nearby location in the company of a 15-year-old male, who dug another grave, made her lie in it, and killed her with a round from an automatic rifle.
In its verdict handed down earlier this month but made public this week, the appeals court said it had reduced Tomic’s sentence because a lot of time had passed since the crime, and because she has no previous convictions and is now elderly.
It also said there was no need to impose a long sentence as a preventative measure.
“In this case, there is no need to prevent the defendant from committing crimes, since she has not committed any other crimes so far, and it is not likely that the circumstances in which the war crimes were committed will be recreated,” verdict said.
It also said that “such a punishment represents the clear position of the state and society that it is fair to punish the perpetrator of war crimes because a sense of justice is a key element in the state’s legal framework”.
The Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre criticized the appeals court’s ruling, saying it was humiliating for the victim’s family, and that the court’s reasoning for the verdict undermines other war crimes proceedings in Serbian courts.
“According to this reasoning by the Appeals Court, perpetrators of war crimes are privileged when it comes to the imposition of sentences because of the passage of time and the impossibility of the act being repeated,” the HLC said in a statement.
The HLC also said that under Serbia’s criminal code, a court can only impose a sentence below the statutory minimum if it finds that there are particular mitigating circumstances which indicate that the purpose of punishment can be achieved with a reduced sentence.
“The mitigating circumstances referred to by the Appeals Court in no way constitute especially mitigating circumstances, and the cruelty which Ranka Tomic showed during the commission of the crime deserves much more severe punishment,” it said.