Press Release . Communiqué de presse
(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)
DE 1ère INSTANCE
Hague, 3 March 2000
BLASKIC FOUND GUILTY ON ALL CHARGES
TO 45 YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Friday 3 March 2000, Trial Chamber I (consisting of Judge Claude Jorda, Presiding,
Judge Almiro Rodrigues and Judge Mohamed Shahabuddeen) issued its reasoned Judgement
in the case of Tihomir Blaskic, and imposed sentence upon him.
was sentenced to 45 years imprisonment after being found guilty on the basis
of his individual and superior criminal responsibility of all the counts contained
in the indictment against him, bar one (Count 2) that was withdrawn by the Prosecutor.
was found to have personally ordered a significant number of attacks and to
have failed to prevent or punish crimes committed by his subordinates.
Presiding Judge, Claude Jorda, stated in the summary of the Judgement read out
crimes you committed, General Blaskic, are extremely serious. The acts of war
carried out with disregard for international humanitarian law and in hatred
of other people, the villages reduced to rubble, the houses and stables set
on fire and destroyed, the people forced to abandon their homes, the lost and
broken lives are unacceptable."
the multitude of crimes committed in the Lasva Valley, Judge Jorda noted,
16 April 1993 at 05:30 hours and then over the following days, the Lasva Valley
became the theatre of many crimes – civilians were killed or wounded, houses
set alight, minarets brought down, mosques destroyed, women and children separated
from the men and left with no choice but to flee, women raped and men imprisoned,
beaten and led off to the front to dig trenches."
specifically on the massacre at Ahmici,
Croatian inhabitants left the evening before. Only those who were armed and
wanted to kill remained behind. Wanted to kill the terror-stricken Muslims who
were awoken in the dead of night, who left their houses to flee and who fell
to the bullets of the awaiting soldiers. Muslims, women, children and the old
forced out of their homes in order to be killed. Muslims who hid under their
beds, in their cellars and who were burnt alive in the flames of their houses."
second amended indictment, dated 25 April 1997, alleged that from May 1992 to
January 1994, members of the armed forces of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO)
committed serious violations of international humanitarian law against Bosnian
Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was alleged that at all times material
to the indictment the accused held the rank of Colonel in the HVO, and that
he became commander of the HVO in the central Bosnian Operative Zone on 27 June
1992. At the beginning of August 1994, he was promoted to the rank of General
and appointed Commander of the HVO.
indictment charged the accused on the basis of both individual responsibility
(Article 7(1) of the Statute of the Tribunal) and superior responsibility (Article
breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions (Article 2 – wilful killing; wilfully
causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health; extensive destruction
of property; inhuman treatment; taking civilians as hostages),
of the laws or customs of war (Article 3 – devastation not justified by
military necessity; unlawful attack on civilians; unlawful attack on civilian
objects; murder; violence to life and person; plunder of public or private
property; destruction or wilful damage to institutions dedicated to religion
or education; cruel treatment; taking of hostages), and
against humanity (Article 5 – persecutions on political, racial or religious
grounds; murder; inhumane acts).
Trial began on 24 June 1997. The Prosecution completed its case-in-chief on
29 July 1998, the Defence case-in-chief commenced on 7 September 1998. The closing
arguments were heard from 26 - 30 July 1999. One hundred and four witnesses
were called by the Prosecution, 46 by the Defence and nine by the Trial Chamber.
its Judgement, the Trial Chamber declared that the conflict in question was
international in nature, both because of the direct involvement of the Croatian
Army (HV) and because of Croatia’s overall control of the Bosnian Croat forces
Judge Jorda notes in his summary,
Republic of Croatia did not content itself merely with remaining a spectator
on the sidelines or even seek simply to protect its borders. It intervened in
the conflict pitting the Muslims and Croats of central Bosnia against each other."
apparently internal armed conflict can be rendered international in two ways:
directly, through the direct involvement of a foreign country or, indirectly,
if a party to the conflict acts under the overall control of a foreign power.
In the case at hand, the Trial Chamber was satisfied that the conflict was international
because of the HV’s direct involvement in the conflict and because of Croatia’s
overall control over the Bosnian Croat forces and authorities. Apart from the
evidence of direct HV involvement in Bosnia, the Trial Chamber took note of
several elements to come to its conclusion: 1) the nationalistic and expansionist
political views of then President of the Republic of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman;
2) the shared goals and aspirations between both Croatia and the Bosnian Croats;
3) the decisions made or controlled by Croatia; 4) the sharing of military personnel;
5) control by Croatia over all important appointments in the Croatian community
of Herceg-Bosna; 6) financial assistance flowing from Croatia.
significant legal findings are as follows:
- The victims
were protected persons within the meaning of the Geneva Conventions. Indeed,
in an inter-ethnic armed conflict, a person’s ethnic background may be regarded
as a decisive factor in determining to which nation he owes his allegiance
and may thus serve to establish the status of the victims as protected persons.
The Trial Chamber considers that this is so in this instance.
- With respect
to crimes against humanity, the Trial Chamber insisted that the notion of
"civilian population" should be given a broad definition. The factual situation
of the victim at the moment the crimes are committed, rather than his actual
status, must be taken into account in determining his standing as a civilian.
Also, the presence of soldiers within an intentionally targeted civilian
population does not alter the civilian nature of the population.
- With respect
to General Blaskic’s individual responsibility under Article 7(1), the accused
does not face charges of having personally committed any of the alleged
crimes, that is, for being the actual perpetrator of the actus reus
of any offence. Instead, he allegedly bears individual criminal responsibility
for offences committed by others, on the basis that he "ordered, planned,
instigated or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation,
or execution of those crimes" (Article 7(1)).
- With regard
to the superior responsibility of General Blaskic pursuant to Article 7(3),
the Chamber held that if a commander lacks knowledge that crimes are about
to be or have been committed, such lack of knowledge must be held against
him, when it is the result of negligence in the discharge of his duties,
taking into account his particular position of command and the circumstances
prevailing at the time.