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Mile Mrkšić transferred to Portugal to serve sentence
Mile Mrkšić, former Colonel within the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), was transferred yesterday to Portugal to serve his 20-year sentence for crimes committed against non-Serb prisoners of war at the hangar of Ovčara near the Croatian town of Vukovar.
Mrkšić was one of three former JNA senior officers in the Mrkšić et al. case. He was a JNA colonel at the time of the crimes and commander of the Guards Motorised Brigade and Operation Group South. He oversaw all Serb forces in the area including JNA, Territorial Defence (TO) and paramilitary forces.
On 27 September 2007, Mrkšić was sentenced by the Trial Chamber to 20 years’ imprisonment for aiding and abetting the murder, torture and cruel treatment of prisoners, as well as the inhumane conditions of detention at the hangar of Ovčara between 20 and 21 November 1991. His sentence was upheld by the Appeals Chamber on 5 May 2009.
On 20 November 1991, following the fall of Vukovar to JNA and Serb paramilitary forces, the JNA loaded about 260 non-Serbs from the Vukovar hospital onto buses and transported them first to JNA barracks and then to a pig farm at Ovčara where they were subjected to severe beatings which lasted for hours. The Trial Chamber found that, that evening, Mrkšić withdrew the JNA troops leaving the prisoners to the mercy of members of the TO and paramilitaries who then killed and buried at least 194 of them in a mass grave at Ovčara. JNA forces which he commanded had earlier established inhumane conditions of detention, and he failed to act effectively to ensure that the prisoners were properly protected.
Persons convicted by the Tribunal do not serve their sentence in the ICTY’s Detention Unit as it is not a penitentiary. Sentences are served outside the Netherlands in a State that has signed an agreement on enforcement of sentences with the ICTY. To date, the Tribunal has signed such agreements with 17 States.
The President of the Tribunal issued his decision designating Portugal as the State in which Mrkšić is to serve his sentence on 26 January 2012. Mrkšić is the first convicted person to be transferred to Portugal.
The ICTY entered into an agreement on the enforcement of sentences with Portugal on 19 December 2007. The Tribunal commends the Portuguese authorities for their support in ensuring the enforcement of the Tribunal’s sentences and calls upon Member States to assist it in securing additional enforcement capacity.
Since its inception 19 years ago, the Tribunal has indicted 161 persons for serious violations of humanitarian law committed on the territory of former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001. Proceedings against 126 persons have been concluded and are currently ongoing for 35 accused.
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International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
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