1 Friday, 7th May, 1999
3 (Open session)
4 --- Upon commencing at 9.04 a.m.
5 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Please be seated.
6 Mr. Registrar, can you ensure that Mr. Aleksovski is
7 brought in, please?
8 (The accused entered court)
9 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Good morning, ladies and
10 gentlemen. Good morning to the Defence counsel, good
11 morning to counsel for the Prosecution, good morning to
12 the interpreters, to the court reporters also.
13 Mr. Registrar, can you call the case,
15 THE REGISTRAR: Case IT-95-14/1-T, the
16 Prosecutor versus Zlatko Aleksovski.
17 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Thank you very much,
18 Mr. Registrar.
19 Can we have the appearances, please? First,
20 for the Prosecution.
21 MS. HOLLIS: Good morning, Your Honours.
22 Mr. Grant Niemann is absent on mission. In his
23 absence, I, Brenda Hollis, appear for the Prosecutor,
24 along with my colleagues, Mr. Anura Meddegoda and
25 Mr. Dan Saxon.
1 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Thank you very much. For
2 the Defence, please? Mr. Joka, I believe.
3 MR. JOKA: Good morning, Your Honours. My
4 name is Srdan Joka, and in this case, I am the Defence
5 counsel, the only one at present, for Mr. Zlatko
7 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Mr. Aleksovski, in a few
8 moments, I shall read the decision taken by the Trial
9 Chamber relating to the crimes with which you have been
10 charged; namely, inhuman treatment, the fact of
11 wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to
12 body or health, outrages upon personal dignity. But
13 before that, I would like to remind everybody of the
14 background of your trial.
15 The crimes that have been held against you
16 took place between the months of January and May 1993.
17 I shall also remind everyone that the Tribunal Statute
18 was adopted by the Security Council of the United
19 Nations on May 25th, 1993.
20 These facts took place in Central Bosnia in
21 the Lasva Valley in the area of Busovaca; more
22 precisely, in Kaonik. Kaonik lies at the meeting point
23 of several roads leading in the north-west to Vitez, in
24 the north towards Zenica, to the south towards
25 Busovaca, and beyond towards Kiseljak and Sarajevo.
1 The victims of the crimes which have been
2 brought against you are, for the majority of them,
3 Muslim individuals who found themselves in this area
4 and who, after having been arrested by Croat armed
5 forces of Bosnia, were led to Kaonik prison, at which
6 you were the warden.
7 An indictment was brought against you, as
8 also against other individuals, by the Office of the
9 Prosecutor. This indictment was confirmed on November
10 10th, 1995, and an arrest warrant was issued against
11 you. On June 8th, 1996, the Croat authorities arrested
12 you and placed you in detention. It was only on April
13 28th, 1997, that Croatia transferred you to the
14 detention unit of the United Nations in The Hague.
15 Your initial appearance took place the very next day
16 before the Judges of this Tribunal. You pleaded not
18 Your trial proper started before this Trial
19 Chamber on January 6th, 1998, and ended on March 23rd,
20 1999. Since that date, my colleagues and I have been
21 deliberating, assessing, and reviewing all the
22 evidence, briefs, and written documents of the trial.
23 The conclusions which we have reached have
24 seemed of such a nature that they justify amply the
25 fact that the hearing be organised in the shortest of
1 delays, without waiting for the final judgement to be
2 put down in writing. This judgement will be made public
3 as early as possible, but the urgency seems to be such
4 that we have not waited for the return of the senior
5 trial attorney of this trial, Mr. Grant Niemann, to
6 which I would like to pay homage. May he be made aware
7 that we are very sorry that he is not present today for
8 we have always been very pleased with his work. I
9 would like to say the same for Mr. Mikulicic: We are
10 very sorry not to see them here today.
11 Mr. Aleksovski, I shall now read the decision
12 of the Trial Chamber. Would you please rise,
13 Mr. Aleksovski?
14 The Trial Chamber, noting Articles 2, 3, 7,
15 20, 21, 23, and 24 of the Statute of the Tribunal and
16 Rules 98 ter, 101, and 108 of the Rules of Procedure
17 and Evidence;
18 Noting that Zlatko Aleksovski is charged,
19 according to Article 2 of the Statute of the Tribunal,
20 of serious violations of the Geneva Conventions of
21 1949, or grave breaches of the said Geneva Conventions,
22 ("inhuman treatment" and "wilfully causing great
23 suffering or serious injury to body or health"
24 respectively) and charged as proscribed by Article 3
25 common to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 with a
1 violation of the laws and customs of war ("outrages
2 upon the personal dignity") mainly on the basis of the
3 following factual allegations set out in paragraph 31
4 of the indictment:
5 "From January 1993 until at least the end of
6 May 1993, Zlatko Aleksovski accepted hundreds
7 of detained Bosnian Muslim civilians from the
8 HVO or their agents into his custody at the
9 detention facilities in Kaonik. The
10 detainees were from a widespread area,
11 including but not exclusive to Vitez and
12 Busovaca municipalities. Many of the
13 detainees under his control were subjected to
14 inhumane treatment, including, but not
15 limited to, excessive and cruel
16 interrogation, physical and psychological
17 harm, forced labour (digging trenches) in
18 hazardous circumstances, being used as human
19 shields and some were murdered or otherwise
21 Noting that Zlatko Aleksovski was arrested on
22 June 8th, 1996, in the territory of the Republic of
23 Croatia by the Croatian police acting pursuant to an
24 arrest warrant issued by the Tribunal and that, after
25 having spent ten months and twenty days in detention in
1 the Republic of Croatia, he was transferred to the
2 Tribunal's detention unit at The Hague on April 28th,
4 Noting that the trial against Mr. Zlatko
5 Aleksovski commenced on January 6th, 1998 and ended on
6 23rd March, 1999, when the hearing was declared closed
7 pursuant to Rule 87 of the Rules;
8 Having reviewed carefully all the evidence
9 presented to the Trial Chamber during the course of the
10 trial along with the written and oral submissions of
11 the Office of the Prosecutor and the Defence counsel;
12 Emphasising that the result of its
13 deliberations compels the Trial Chamber to issue today
14 a brief summary of its factual and legal findings, the
15 full text of which will be presented in writing at a
16 later date;
17 Considering that at the material time a state
18 of armed conflict existed between the armed forces of
19 the Bosnian Croats and the Bosnian Muslims and
20 considering that a nexus existed between that armed
21 conflict and the alleged criminal conduct of Zlatko
23 Considering that a majority of the Trial
24 Chamber deems that Article 2 of the Statute can apply
25 only where the alleged offence is committed against
1 persons regarded as "protected persons" within the
2 meaning of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and that, in
3 the present case, it has not been proved that the
4 victims of the acts ascribed to Zlatko Aleksovski were
5 such "protected persons";
6 Considering that the legal consequence of the
7 previous finding must be that Zlatko Aleksovski be
8 declared not guilty of the two counts of grave breaches
9 which rely upon Article 2 of the Statute; namely,
10 Counts 8 and 9 of the indictment;
11 Considering that the Trial Chamber
12 unanimously determines that severe beatings and other
13 forms of violence with acute physical and psychological
14 consequences which were inflicted on some detainees at
15 Kaonik prison constitute violations of Article 3 of the
17 Considering that it has been proven beyond
18 reasonable doubt that Zlatko Aleksovski participated in
19 the commission of such violations to the extent
20 necessary to hold him criminally responsible in respect
21 of those violations pursuant to Article 7(1) of the
23 Considering that it has been proven beyond
24 reasonable doubt that Zlatko Aleksovski, as the
25 commander (or director or warden) of Kaonik prison,
1 knew or had reason to know that persons in a
2 subordinate position to that of himself were about to
3 commit crimes or had done so and that Zlatko Aleksovski
4 failed to take the necessary and reasonable measures to
5 prevent such crimes or to punish the perpetrators
6 thereof and that Zlatko Aleksovski therefore should be
7 held criminally responsible in respect of those crimes
8 pursuant to Article 7(3) of the Statute;
9 Considering that Articles 23 and 24 of the
10 Statute and Rule 101 of the Rules lay down the
11 sentencing guidelines for determining the appropriate
12 sentence in respect of a finding of guilt;
13 Considering that a convicted person, pursuant
14 to Sub-rule 101(D) of the Rules, is entitled to credit
15 "for the period, if any, during which the convicted
16 person was detained in custody pending surrender to the
17 Tribunal or pending trial or appeal";
18 Considering that, for the purpose of the
19 application of Sub-rule 101(D), Zlatko Aleksovski has
20 been detained since June 8th, 1996, and that he
21 therefore to date is entitled to credit for time served
22 for a period of two years, ten months, and twenty-nine
24 Considering that, for the purpose of filing a
25 notice of appeal pursuant to Rule 108, the time limit
1 will run from the date of the present decision;
2 For the foregoing reasons, the Trial Chamber
3 declares Zlatko Aleksovski:
4 Not guilty of a grave breach (inhuman
5 treatment) as stipulated in Count 8 of the
7 Not guilty of a grave breach of the Geneva
8 Conventions (wilfully causing great suffering
9 or serious injury to body or health) as
10 stipulated in Count 9;
11 Guilty of a violation of the laws and customs
12 of war (outrages upon personal dignity) as
13 stipulated in Count 10;
14 Consequently sentences Zlatko Aleksovski to
15 two years and six months' imprisonment;
16 Therefore orders the immediate release of
17 Zlatko Aleksovski notwithstanding any appeal;
18 States further that the notice of appeal, if
19 any, shall be filed not more than 15 days from the date
20 of this decision; and
21 Further states that the Trial Chamber's
22 written judgement giving reasons for the present
23 decision will follow.
24 Mr. Aleksovski, I hope you have understood
25 well the decision of the Chamber. I shall come back to
1 it. But before doing so, I should like to address
2 myself to all those who have contributed to the
3 efficiency of these proceedings.
4 I believe that we have every reason to be
5 pleased with the quality of our debates. Each side has
6 been able to present his point of view, to produce his
7 evidence, to voice his preoccupations without fear or
9 Mr. Aleksovski chose not to testify. I
10 personally regret it, but his choice was made freely.
11 We were also careful to make sure that Mr. Aleksovski
12 could attend in the best possible conditions, bearing
13 in mind the condition of his health, so that he should
14 be fully capable of participating in all our sittings.
15 Frequently, I almost forgot that there was an accused
16 here, but I was always aware that there was a person,
17 Mr. Zlatko Aleksovski.
18 Our work, however, was possible thanks to the
19 dedication of numerous staff members whose competencies
20 contributed to the efficient functioning of the
21 sittings. There were those that one sees, and I have
22 in mind specifically the registrar; those who one
23 hears, the interpreters and translators; those whose
24 words one reads, the court reporters, to use the
25 English expression; those whose presence one only
1 guesses, that is, the audio-visual technicians; those
2 who are not visible, the officers and security guards;
3 those who are further away but equally necessary, the
4 personnel of the Victims and Witnesses Unit, who had
5 the difficult task of ensuring, particularly at the
6 psychological level, the presence of the victims who
7 have come to testify; those whose qualities
8 Mr. Aleksovski learned to appreciate in the detention
9 unit; those who are present on a daily basis, the legal
10 officers of the Chamber; and all those who have,
11 generally speaking, allowed international justice to be
12 exercised. Because, after all, that is what all this
13 is about, Mr. Aleksovski, because when the Tribunal
14 renders its decision, it is international justice that
15 is at work.
16 The decision that I have just read, for me,
17 means at least two things:
18 First of all, the acts that you were charged
19 with are grave. They are crimes in international law.
20 For some people, you have been acquitted; for others,
21 you are today condemned.
22 As you know, Mr. Aleksovski, the same reality
23 has always at least two aspects to it. That is why
24 justice exists. The seriousness of the crimes for
25 which a sentence has been passed upon you exceeds,
1 without any doubt, by its very nature, the scope of
2 your own person because, after all, it is a question of
3 war crimes. On the other side, there are the victims,
4 who have the right to be recognised as victims, who
5 have the right to find in our decision a sanctioning of
6 an attitude which morality, even more than law,
7 condemns, and who can appease their thirst for
9 The sanction imposed upon you via the
10 Tribunal by the International Community wishes also to
11 send a clear signal to all those who wish to avoid the
12 obligations that all of us have to respect if we wish
13 peoples to belong to a civilised society and to be able
14 to live together in co-operation and in peace.
15 The condemnation that I have just conveyed to
16 you is yours because these are crimes that you have
17 been charged with personally and only those. I should
18 like that to be very clear in your mind. We have taken
19 into account all the elements that apply to you in the
20 indictment but only that. We have examined all the
21 evidence regarding the three counts against you but
22 only those counts.
23 The second point that today's decision
24 appears to mean to me is that it is up to you to
25 determine straightaway what lesson you wish to draw
1 from this. I am not talking about the possibilities of
2 appeal that are open to you, and it is up to you alone,
3 together with your counsel, to decide whether you wish
4 to use them or not. I wish to speak of the reflection
5 that all persons in your position should engage in,
6 in my view.
7 There is a Chinese proverb that says: If you
8 wish to dig revenge, dig two tombs. To be judged in a
9 fair manner, as you have been, also means to face one's
10 responsibilities within a framework where there is no
11 place for revenge, and if your trial has achieved at
12 least that, that is, to eliminate the desire for
13 vengeance among your victims, then a great deal has
14 already been accomplished. But to accept, as you have
15 done, to be judged under these conditions, also means
16 to refuse to dig a second grave.
17 If there is any revenge to be taken, it is
18 against yourself, to look within in order to be able to
19 resume your life with your family in peace,
20 particularly with your children, and I hope that you
21 will find that strength within you, to know how to take
22 that kind of revenge.
23 Mr. Aleksovski, the decision of the Chamber
24 means that you are free. To be more precise, you will
25 be free as soon as the necessary measures have been
1 taken, which means in a matter of hours. I hope that
2 you will know how to make the best of that freedom.
3 Mr. Aleksovski, do you have anything to say?
4 You have the floor then.
5 MR. ALEKSOVSKI: Your Honours, thank you for
6 giving me this opportunity to address you, and I shall
7 take the advantage of this opportunity to address you
8 and also to convey my modest opinion about all this.
9 In the first place, I should like to go back
10 to 1993 with a few thoughts, and I appeal to all of you
11 to look back, both those on this side of the glass
12 partition and all the people sitting on the other side
13 of the glass partition, including my wife.
14 This applies to 1993. "In these
15 terrible, turbulent times, I see signs of bad times."
16 These are verses of Enes Kisevic, a well-known poet.
17 To say that there was madness -- you will
18 understand what I am saying. You are experts. You
19 have others who will tell you what it is, but it was
20 more than madness and I cannot explain it to you nor
21 can anyone. I am not referring only to the Lasva
22 Valley but throughout the territory of the former
23 Yugoslavia. It was madness.
24 I haven't changed from the very beginning.
25 From my first encounter with Mr. Heintz when I was
1 brought to the detention unit, I said that I looked
2 forward to the trial and that I trusted this Tribunal.
3 You will say, as all jurists do, that this means that
4 you accept two years and six months as your sentence,
5 but I will not comment on that as that is not my
7 As Mr. Niemann said, Zlatko Aleksovski is a
8 university graduate and he knew how things should be
9 done in a detention unit. If I had treated those men
10 in the way they should be treated in prison, believe
11 me, two years and six months would be too short a
13 I told Mr. Niemann here, he was two metres
14 away from me, we shook hands on a couple of occasions
15 and exchanged a few words, I said that I was not the
16 manager of a hospital, and even in a hospital, there
17 are complaints. There are complaints everywhere.
18 I wish to tell you and the whole world that
19 never have I hated anyone, that never have I wanted to
20 play a part in inflicting anything bad on anyone nor
21 will I ever do that. I will use your words. I was and
22 am and wish to remain a citizen of mankind. Thank you.
23 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Is that all,
24 Mr. Aleksovski? You may be seated.
25 Thank you, Mr. Aleksovski. That brings to an
1 end this hearing.
2 MS. HOLLIS: Thank you. May it please the
3 Court, the Prosecutor does not request that the accused
4 remain in detention pending the completion of any
5 appeals. However, the Prosecutor may raise issues on
6 appeal that could, if successful, result in a sentence
7 that would be more severe. It is for that reason that
8 the Prosecutor makes the following request, and that
9 request is, before ordering that the accused be
10 released from the custody and control of the Tribunal,
11 that the Trial Chamber order that the Croatian
12 government give assurances that if appellate action so
13 requires, the accused would be returned to the custody
14 of the Tribunal. We would respectfully request that
15 Your Honours consider that request and that you grant
16 it. Thank you.
17 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Mr. Joka, do you have any
18 comment to make?
19 MR. JOKA: Your Honours, perhaps just a brief
20 comment. We will respond to this request in writing,
21 but at this point in time, bearing in mind all the
22 elements that were mentioned by us on the 24th of
23 November last year in our written brief for provisional
24 relief, the guarantees provided and the fact that the
25 Croatian government enabled Zlatko Aleksovski to be
1 here and to be put on trial, we feel that such a
2 request would not be appropriate.
3 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Allow me to consult with my
5 (Trial Chamber confers)
6 JUDGE RODRIGUES: The Trial Chamber
7 reiterates its decision. Mr. Aleksovski is free, and
8 we trust that the Croatian government will cooperate
9 and we trust that Mr. Aleksovski himself will cooperate
10 if proved necessary.
11 This is the Trial Chamber's decision. The
12 hearing is adjourned.
13 --- Whereupon the hearing adjourned at
14 9.35 a.m.