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Veteran Hague Tribunal judge Jean-Claude Antonetti has withdrawn from the chamber making the final decision on Serb paramilitary Milan Lukic’s bid to overturn his life sentence, arguing that he is not impartial.
Antonetti filed to withdraw from the judging panel on Tuesday, explaining that he is not impartial because he was involved in hearing Lukic’s appeal against his life sentence for killings of Bosniaks and other inhumane acts in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad during the war.
He argued that the judges taking the decision on the life sentence should not have been involved in previous stages of the case, in order to ensure that justice is seen to be done.
Lukic filed a request in February last year asking for the Hague Tribunal’s final verdict to be overturned because he had found new witnesses and evidence.
The request was rejected by a chamber presided over by Theodor Meron, the president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, in July this year.
But judge Antonetti expressed a dissenting opinion, arguing that the case should be reheard because there were “errors in law and fact” in the final verdict.
The same chamber was then tasked with reviewing Lukic’s appeals against the decision, which caused Antonetti to withdraw.
Antonetti called on Meron to name a new chamber to make the final decision.
“The victims, the families of victims and the international community expect international justice to deliver impartial decisions based upon evidence. How can we accept a system in which the president, who chooses the judges at his discretion, rules in the appeals chamber, then in the review chamber and in the appeal of the review decision?” he asked.
“It is unacceptable and any judge who has integrity and is independent must have the courage to withdraw from the case in order not to leave room for any criticism,” he added.
Lukic was found guilty in December 2012 with his cousin Sredoje Lukic of taking part in the murders and expulsions of Bosniaks civilians in Visegrad in 1992 and 1993.
He was responsible for two of the most notorious massacres of the Bosnian war in June 1992, when around 120 women, children and elderly people were burned alive in their houses.
When passing the first-instance verdict in 2009, the presiding judge at the time, Patrick Robinson, described the killings as the “worst acts of inhumanity”.
“They rank high in the long, sad and wretched history of man’s inhumanity to man,” Robinson said.