Historical or Shameful Verdict

29. May 2013.00:00
While some consider the first instance verdict against six former Herceg-Bosna leaders shameful and unfair, others say it is a historical decision, which proves that crimes were committed in the Herzegovina and Central Bosnia area.

Vesna Alaburic, representative of Milivoje Petkovic’s Defence team, told journalists at The Hague that they “have unfortunately not finished the first half successfully”, but she expressed hope that she would prove, during the second instance trial, that the committed crimes were not consequences of a joint criminal enterprise, but concrete events.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, sentenced Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoje Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic for having participated in a joint criminal enterprise with the aim of persecuting and ethnically cleansing Bosniaks from Herceg-Bosna, which they wanted to append to the
“Greater Croatia”.

“The decision about a joint criminal enterprise gives a possibility to the Chamber to pronounce them guilty without dealing with some individual actions and sentence them for so-called basis of crimes,” Alaburic said.

On the other hand, Prosecutor Kenneth Scott said that he was satisfied with the verdict, pointing out that justice was achieved and that this was a key Tribunal verdict, which conveyed a true story about the happenings in the Herceg-Bosna area.

“A lot has been written about the happenings on Serb territories, but not enough has been known about the happenings in the Herceg-Bosna area and under Franjo Tudjman’s leadership. This is a historical moment. We are very happy with this decision,” Scott said, adding that Republika Srpska and Herceg-Bosna were formed in an identical manner with a
persecution plan and a link between political and military forces with the aim of committing ethnic cleansing.

Petar Cosic, representative of the Croatian World Congress, who attended the pronouncement of the verdict, said that the verdict was unfounded and that it represented a conviction of all Croat people.

“We shall try to prevent falsification of the Croat people’s history. In this case it will have to be revised,” Cosic said.

Sead Tabakovic, President of the Assembly of the Association of Detainees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, considers that justice for victims is impossible, but he points out that they are nevertheless very satisfied with the fact that the six former senior officials have been
pronounced guilty and that the role of Croatia has been condemned.

“We consider that 111 years is not enough for the crimes they committed. We are worried, because politics might become involved in the second instance trial, but we hope that they will not be acquitted of charges,” Tabakovic said.

Under the first instance verdict, the six indictees were found guilty of crimes committed in Mostar, Vares, Prozor, Gornji Vakuf, Jablanica, Capljina and Stolac.

Besides the detention of Bosniaks in various facilities, where they stayed in inhumane conditions, while some of them were killed and raped, the verdict covers the destruction of the Old Bridge in Mostar and several mosques in the Central Bosnia.

The Trial Chamber, excluding judge Jean Claude Antonetti’s opinion, determined that the destruction of the Old Bridge caused disproportionate damage to Muslim people despite the fact that the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, ABiH, used it, which made it a legitimate
military target.

Saja Coric of the Association of Detainees of Hercegovina-Neretva Canton said that she was very happy due to the determined facts.

“Justice for the southern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been achieved. As far as the pronounced sentence is concerned, I leave it up to the judges to deal with their conscience, but victims can be satisfied more or less,” said Coric, who attended the pronouncement of
the verdict at the Hague.

The six indictees surrendered to the Hague Tribunal in April 2004.

Their trial began two years later.

Under the verdict, Prlic was sentenced to 25 years in prison, Stojic, Praljak and Petkovic to 20 years each, Coric to 16 and Pusic to ten years.

Erna Mačkić