By Niklas Jakobsson
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia last week handed down its appeal sentencing in the “Srebrenica case” against five former military commanders. The verdict was delivered in a hefty 792 pages by the Appeals Chamber but in essence meant that all five accused will be spending the rest of their lives behind bars.
In 1995 the Bosnian Serb army killed more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in what is now known as the Srebrenica massacre. At the time the area was a UN Safe Zone protected by roughly 450 Dutch UN peacekeepers. Vujadin Popovic, Ljubisa Beara, Drago Nikolic, Vinko Pandurevic and Radivoje Miletic were found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity in the original sentencing handed down in 2010.
The overall decision by the court to uphold the sentencing was generally agreed with.
In an article for The Conversation, Louis Monroy Santander argues that this is a decision that should be noted by politicians in the region.
“The message from the court is that genocide took place and that those responsible will not get away with it. Now that message needs to be heard by politicians and people back home.”
But as with most legal sentencings, there were specific parts of the verdict that raised more questions than answers. In an article for Opinio Juris, Jens David Ohlin brought forward one of the more debated issues that came out of the ICTY’s sentencing.
“In my opinion, the most critical part of the judgment relates to the connection between the defendants, their Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE), and the perpetrators who actually performed the killings.
“Again, I’m not objecting to the result in this case, but rather questioning whether the Appeals Chamber has answered the necessary doctrinal questions and whether they have given sufficient guidance to further Trial Chambers. The results here seem decidedly fact-dependent and, shall we say, under-theorized.”
Louis Monroy Santander also believes this decision is of wider significance “The decision is important in the ongoing process of post-war reconciliation between the different ethnic groups that live in the region. These groups are still divided and mistrustful of one another. This ruling is a reminder that dialogue about the past and future is needed at all levels.”
But reconciliation might not be as easy to come by as Santander hopes. The sentencing in this case came less than a week before the International Court of Justice made its ruling in the case between Croatia and Serbia. A claim and subsequent counter-claim regarding genocide was handed down today at the ICJ. The 17 judges ruled that both claims should be dismissed in their entirety as both sides failed to prove the full extent of the claims. Social media is currently filling up with analysis and opinion of the verdicts and Justice Hub will be reflecting opinions and thoughts in the coming week.
(Photo: Micheal Kooren/ANP)
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