UN Court Confirms Bosnian Serb Police Officials’ Convictions
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The Hague Tribunal on Thursday rejected appeals from Stanisic and Zupljanin and upheld their convictions for crimes committed during the war in Bosnia in 1992.
Stanisic was the wartime interior minister of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska and Zupljanin was the chief of the regional police HQ in the entity’s main city, Banja Luka.
Both were found guilty of the persecution, murder and torture of Bosniaks and Croats from April to December 1992, while Zupljanin was also convicted of extermination.
They were initially found guilty in 2013 of committing crimes in about 20 municipalities as part of a joint criminal enterprise aimed at forcibly and permanently removing Bosniaks and Croats from large parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina which were intended to become parts of a new Serb state.
The 2013 verdict said that Stanisic and Zupljanin participated in the enterprise although they “could foresee” that it implied the commission of crimes against the non-Serb population.
The murder of about 200 Bosniak captives at Koricanske Stijene on Mount Vlasic in August 1992 and the shooting of more than 100 people at the Keraterm detention camp in July 1992 were among the gravest crimes listed in the verdict.
According to the verdict, these crimes were committed by police forces over which Stanisic and Zupljanin had effective control.
They were also convicted of responsibility for crimes committed by Territorial Defence forces and the Yellow Wasps and White Eagles paramilitary groups, which “executed at least 497 prisoners” in Zvornik in late May and early June 1992, the verdict said.
The appeals chamber’s presiding judge Carmel Agius said on Thursday that Stanisic and Zupljanin’s defence teams failed to prove any significant mistake in the first-instance verdict in 2013.
Their appeals claimed that the first-instance verdict contained factual mistakes, but Agius said that based on the evidence, it was clear that the conclusions made in the original trial were correct.
He said that the fact that the first-instance verdict did not specify who was directly responsible for crimes committed by policemen who were under the control of the Bosnian Serb Army was not a reason to annul the findings of the trial chamber.
Agius also rejected the defence appeal for the first-instance verdict to be annulled because Danish judge Frederik Harhoff, who was part of the judging panel at the two men’s trial, was later dismissed from the case against Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj for alleged bias.
“The appeals chamber finds that the removal of a judge in the case of Vojislav Seselj does not automatically mean he should be removed from all cases,” said Agius.
He also rejected the prosecution’s request for Stanisic and Zupljanin to be given lengthier sentences.
Stanisic surrendered to the Tribunal voluntarily in March 2005, while the Serbian authorities arrested Zupljanin in Pancevo in June 2008.
The time they have spent in custody will be deducted from their sentences.