Press Release
(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)

The Hague, 16 November 1998

Celebici Case: The Judgement Of The Trial Chamber

Zejnil Delalic acquitted,
Zdravko Mucic sentenced to 7 years in prison,
Hazim Delic sentenced to 20 years in prison
Esad Landzo sentenced to 15 years in prison


Today, Monday 16 November 1998, Judge Adolphus Karibi-Whyte (presiding), Judge Elizabeth Odio Benito and Judge Saad Saood Jan, pronounced their Judgement in the case The Prosecutor v. Zejnil Delalic, Zdravko Mucic, Hazim Delic and Esad Landzo.

The indictment against them was issued on 21 March 1996. It alleges that in 1992 forces consisting of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats took control of those villages containing predominantly Bosnian Serbs within and around the Konjic municipality in central Bosnia. Those persons detained during these operations were held in a former JNA facility in the village of Celebici, the Celebici prison-camp, where detainees were killed, tortured, sexually assaulted, beaten and otherwise subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment by the four accused.

The trial of the four accused commenced on 10 March 1997 and covered a period of some nineteen months during which the Trial Chamber heard the testimony of 122 witnesses, received 691 exhibits and carefully considered the arguments of the Parties. Many procedural and evidentiary matters were also raised to which the Judges gave full attention, always bearing in mind the rights of the accused and the need for a fair and expeditious trial. Finally, the crimes alleged in the indictment are serious violations of international humanitarian law and the Trial Chamber had to deal with many complex issues of fact and law previously unaddressed by any international judicial body.

For these reasons, the Judgement is a lengthy document of approximately 500 pages which this press release does not summarize. It is merely an outline of the most significant legal aspects of the Judgement and an overview of the findings reached by the Chamber with respect of each of the four accused.

The full text of the official summary as read out in court by the Presiding Judge and of the Judgement itself will be mailed upon request by the Public Information Unit. Both documents have been filed on the ICTY Internet Homepage.


The Judgement in this case is the second Judgement upon trial to be rendered by the ICTY, and marks the third time that sentences are imposed upon accused persons. However, it is the first Judgement involving multiple defendants.

On the issue of the legal classification of the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, "the Trial Chamber finds that the conflict…must be regarded as an international armed conflict throughout 1992. There can be no question that forces external to Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly the forces of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), participated in hostilities in that State. In mid-May 1992, there was an attempt by the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) to create the appearance that they were no longer involved (…). The Trial Chamber finds, however, that this was a deliberate attempt to mask the continued involvement of the FRY…".

This Judgement is the first elucidation of the concept of command responsibility by an international judicial body since the cases decided in the wake of the Second World War. It emphasizes that the doctrine of command responsibility encompasses "not only military commanders, but also civilians holding positions of authority (…)" and "not only persons in de jure positions but also those in such position de facto (…)".

This Judgement entails also the first conviction of an accused person for rape as torture by the International Tribunal. Rape as torture is charged as a Grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and a Violation of the laws and customs of war. The Trial Chamber considered "the rape of any person to be a despicable act which strikes at the very core of human dignity and physical integrity.” The judges held that acts of rape may constitute torture under customary international law.


Following the determination by the Trial Chamber that "the sentences are to be served concurrently", this document only indicates the highest penalty imposed on each of the convicted.

Zejnil DELALIC: is found NOT GUILTY of the 11 counts of Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and Violation of the laws and customs of war he was charged with due to his alleged command over the Celebici prison-camp at the relevant time. He is also acquitted of the count charging him as a direct participant in the unlawful confinement of civilians.

The Trial Chamber found that Mr. Delalic did not have command and control over the Celebici prison-camp and over the guards who worked there, such as to entail his criminal responsibility for their actions.

Zdravko MUCIC: charged with 13 counts of Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and Violation of the laws and customs of war, is found GUILTY on 11 counts and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for his superior responsibility for murder (9 victims), torture (6 victims), causing great suffering or serious injury (4 victims), inhumane acts (6 victims), and for his direct participation in the unlawful confinement of civilians in inhumane conditions.

Explaining its sentence, the Trial Chamber states the following: "We wish to emphasize the duty of a commander of any detention facility during an armed conflict… Mr. Mucic was clearly derelict in this duty and allowed those under his authority to commit the most heinous of offences, without taking any disciplinary action. Furthermore, as commander of the Celebici prison-camp, he was the person with the primary responsibility for the conditions in which the prisoners were kept. The Trial Chamber is appalled by the inadequacy of the food and water supplies, and medical and sleeping facilities that were provided for the detainees, as well as the atmosphere of terror which reigned in the Celebici prison-camp…".

Some of the mitigating factors which the Trial Chamber took into consideration were the fact that Mr. Mucic was not named by any witness as an active participant in any of the murders or tortures for which he was charged with responsibility as a superior. In addition, the Trial Chamber also recognised that Mr. Mucic’s actions were as a result of human frailty rather than individual malice.

Hazim DELIC: charged with 38 counts of Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and Violation of the laws and customs of war, is found GUILTY on 13 counts and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for murder (two victims), torture and rape (two victims), causing great suffering or serious injury (one victim), inhumane acts involving the use of an electrical device and inhumane conditions.

Explaining its sentence, the Trial Chamber states the following: the accused "displayed a singular brutality in causing the deaths of two men detained in the Celebici prison-camp and a calculated cruelty in the torture and mistreatment of many others. He raped two defenceless women on several occasions, seeking to exert his power over them and instil absolute fear in them. The Trial Chamber considers the rape of any person to be a despicable act which strikes at the very core of human dignity and physical integrity. Throughout Mr. Delic’s tenure as deputy commander in the Celebici prison-camp he was instrumental in creating an atmosphere of terror by his actions and his threats to and humiliation of the detainees. It appears that he took a sadistic pleasure in causing the detainees pain and suffering, most clearly illustrated by his frequent use of a device to inflict electrical shocks. Mr. Delic abused his position of authority and trust as a deputy commander and, although he has been found not to have command responsibility for the offences of others within the prison-camp, by his actions he encouraged others among the camp guards to engage in their own forms of mistreatment of the detainees…".

Esad LANDZO: charged with 24 counts of Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and Violation of the laws and customs of war, is found GUILTY on 17 counts and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for killings (three victims), torture (three victims), causing great suffering or serious injury (two victims) and inhumane conditions.

Explaining its sentence, the Trial Chamber states the following: "While we have dismissed his defence of diminished responsibility, we have noted his young age at the relevant time and his impressionability and immaturity, as well as his particular personality traits and the effect that the armed conflict in his home town had upon him. It is these factors which have led us to impose a less severe sentence than the seriousness and cruelty of his crimes would ordinarily require. The Trial Chamber does not, however, accept that Mr. Landzo was the mere instrument of his superiors, lacking the ability to exercise independent will. The nature of his crimes is suggestive of significant imagination and a perverse pleasure in the infliction of pain and suffering. It is most disturbing to see such propensity for violence and disregard for human life and dignity in one so young…".


The convicted persons are entitled to credit for time spent in detention pending their surrender to the Tribunal and pending trial: 2 years, 7 months and 29 days for Zdravko Mucic; 2 years, 6 months and 14 days for both Hazim Delic and Esad Landzo. The additional time they may serve in the ICTY detention Unit pending the determination of any appeal will also be credited.



International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
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