1 Thursday, 27 September 2007
3 [Open session]
4 [The accused entered court]
5 --- Upon commencing at 3.30 p.m.
6 JUDGE PARKER: Would the court officer call the case.
7 THE REGISTRAR: Good afternoon, Your Honours. This is case number
8 IT-95-13/1-T, the Prosecutor versus Mile Mrksic et al.
9 JUDGE PARKER: The Chamber today is sitting to deliver judgement
10 in the trial of the three accused persons, Mile Mrksic, Miroslav Radic,
11 and Veselin Sljivancanin.
12 For the purposes of this hearing, the Chamber will summarize
13 briefly its findings, emphasising that this is a summary only, and that
14 the only authoritative account of the Chamber's findings, and of its
15 reasons for those findings, is to be found in the written judgement,
16 copies of which will be made available at the conclusion of this hearing.
17 The three accused, Mile Mrksic, Miroslav Radic, and
18 Veselin Sljivancanin, are indicted for their alleged involvement in the
19 mistreatment and execution of 264 Croat and other non-Serb persons taken
20 from the Vukovar Hospital by Serb forces on the 20th of November, 1991.
21 This followed the capitulation of the Croat forces at Vukovar on the 18th
22 of November. It is alleged that these persons were taken to a hangar at
23 Ovcara, where Serb forces mistreated them and later that day executed
24 them. These allegations support five counts of crimes against humanity
25 under Article 5 of the United Nations Statute establishing this Tribunal;
1 namely, persecutions, extermination, murder, torture, and inhumane acts,
2 and three counts of war crimes under Article 3 of the Statute, namely,
3 murder, torture, and cruel treatment.
4 It should be made clear that the indictment is limited to the
5 alleged offences relating to the mistreatment and execution of Croat and
6 non-Serb persons from Vukovar Hospital on the 20th of November, 1991. It
7 does not include the attack directed against the city of Vukovar and its
8 civilian population by the Yugoslav national army and other Serb forces in
9 1991 or the devastation brought on Vukovar over the prolonged military
10 engagement in 1991 or the very many civilian casualties and the extensive
11 damage to property resulting from the military operations or the other
12 deaths that occurred after the surrender of the Croatian forces in Vukovar
13 on the 18th of November, 1991. Most of those matters are the subject of
14 another indictment in this Tribunal, in respect of which an arrest warrant
15 against Goran Hadzic has yet to be executed. Nevertheless, these matters
16 are of some relevance to establishing elements of the offences charged in
17 this case and have been considered in the judgement. It is not open to
18 the Chamber, however, to make any finding of guilt or innocence of the
19 three accused in this trial in respect of such matters.
20 At the time of the alleged offences, the accused Mile Mrksic was a
21 colonel in the Yugoslav People's Army. In this summary I will refer to it
22 as the JNA. He commanded both the prestigious Guards Motorised Brigade of
23 the JNA and Operational Group South. As commander of Operational Group
24 South, he had command of all Serb forces including JNA, Territorial
25 Defence, and paramilitary forces in the geographic area in which all the
1 charged offences are alleged to have occurred. Later he became a general
2 and for a time he commanded the army of the then-Serbian Krajina.
3 Miroslav Radic was a captain in the JNA at the time of the alleged
4 offences. He was a company commander of the 1st Battalion of the
5 Guards Motorised Brigade. Veselin Sljivancanin was a major in the JNA and
6 held the post of head of the security organ of both the Guards Motorised
7 Brigade and Operational Group South at the time of the alleged offences.
8 He was later promoted to the rank of colonel.
9 After several months of intense military operations between JNA
10 and other Serb forces and Croatian forces, the Croatian forces in the
11 Vukovar area capitulated on the 18th of November, 1991. By agreement
12 reached that day, Croatian fighters from the Mitnica area of Vukovar
13 surrendered to the JNA forces of Operational Group South. The surrender
14 later that day was monitored by representatives of the International
15 Committee of the Red Cross. The prisoners of war were then taken to a
16 large hangar at Ovcara near Vukovar, which had been selected earlier that
17 day on the orders of Mile Mrksic. The prisoners of war were held there
18 overnight, and the following morning they were transported to a prisoner
19 of war facility at Sremska Mitrovica, which was across the border in
20 Serbia. No incidents occurred during this evacuation.
21 Also on the 18th of November, 1991, in Zagreb, an agreement was
22 reached between the Government of Croatia and the JNA representatives for
23 the evacuation of Vukovar Hospital. Wounded or sick patients of Vukovar
24 Hospital who were fit to make the journey were to be evacuated to Croatia.
25 The hospital was to be under the protection of the International Committee
1 of the Red Cross. The evacuation was to be monitored by the European
2 Community Monitoring Mission, who were to have full access to all stages
3 of the evacuation. Despite contrary views expressed by a number of Croat
4 witnesses, the agreement did not apply to hospital staff, their family
5 members, or to persons who were not patients in the hospital.
6 On the 18th of November, Vukovar Hospital, which had been severely
7 damaged in the fighting, was full beyond its capacity. A large number of
8 civilians had also gathered there in the hope that they would also be
9 evacuated. Inside the hospital there were sick, wounded, hospital staff,
10 and some family members of hospital staff. Despite contrary evidence of
11 some Croat witnesses, there were also members of the Croatian forces,
12 pretending to be patients or hospital staff. Operational Group South
13 entered the Vukovar Hospital on the 19th of November. The accused
14 Miroslav Radic placed guards at the entrance until later that day when the
15 military police of the Guards Motorised Brigade took over the duty of
16 securing the hospital. In the afternoon of the 19th of November, 1991,
17 most of the civilians who had gathered at the hospital were transported by
18 the JNA to Velepromet, a large warehouse located nearby.
19 International representatives, both ECMM and ICRC, were in Vukovar
20 on the 18th and 19th of November. ECMM's access to the hospital on the
21 18th and the 19th of November was prevented by the JNA. An ICRC
22 representative was allowed only limited access to the hospital on the 19th
23 of November. On that day international representatives were told by a
24 senior JNA officer of Operational Group south in Mile Mrksic's presence
25 that members of the Croatian forces, that is, whether patients or
1 otherwise, would not be allowed to leave the hospital in the evacuation,
2 because if they were allowed to leave Serb irregulars or local citizens
3 would attack the convey. Instead, they would be held by the JNA as
4 prisoners of war, and later they would be exchanged for JNA prisoners.
5 The ECMM were told not to get involved in the evacuation. The agreement
6 for the evacuation of the wounded, signed the previous day, was being
8 On the 19th of November, 1991, Mile Mrksic ordered the evacuation
9 of the Vukovar Hospital. This was to occur on the 20th of November. He
10 put the accused Veselin Sljivancanin in charge. He was to separate the
11 people in the hospital into two groups: War crimes suspects and
12 civilians. The war crimes suspects, that is, the members of the Croatian
13 forces, were to be transported under JNA guard to the prisoner of war
14 facility in Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia. Civilians were to be taken, as
15 they chose, to Croatia or Serbia. Veselin Sljivancanin was given
16 responsibility for security of the prisoners of war until they reached
17 Sremska Mitrovica.
18 On the 20th of November, at about 0700 hours, staff of the
19 Vukovar Hospital were called to a meeting organized by the accused
20 Veselin Sljivancanin. While the meeting was in progress, JNA soldiers
21 went through the hospital and told those who were able to walk to leave.
22 At the exit, JNA soldiers separated the men from the women, children, and
23 the elderly. The men were searched by JNA soldiers and ordered to board
24 waiting buses under armed guard. There were over 200 men, and also two
25 women, in this group. They were all Croat or non-Serb. They were or were
1 believed to be involved in the Croat forces. At the same time on the
2 other side of the hospital, the women, children, and a few elderly men
3 were gathered and boarded different buses to go either to Serbia or
4 Croatia. The buses with the male prisoners left the Vukovar Hospital at
5 about 1000 hours. They went in a convoy first to the JNA barracks in
7 Attempts by the ECMM and the ICRC representatives to reach the
8 hospital that morning were prevented by the JNA. They were held for two
9 hours in the city centre at a bridge over the Vuka River. A JNA armoured
10 vehicle blocked their way to the hospital. The accused
11 Veselin Sljivancanin was at the bridge and suggested falsely that the
12 representatives could not proceed further for safety reasons. While they
13 were held at the bridge, the buses carrying the men from the hospital,
14 travelling in the opposite direction, crossed the Vuka River on a nearby
15 bridge, heading towards the JNA barracks. Following this, the ECMM and
16 ICRC representatives were finally able to reach the hospital at about 1030
17 hours. They found primarily women and children remaining there. The men
18 had been removed, apart from a few elderly and male staff.
19 The buses carrying the prisoners of war, that is, the men from the
20 hospital, arrived at the JNA barracks in Vukovar at about 1030 hours.
21 Local Serb Territorial Defence and paramilitary forces milled around the
22 buses, physically threatening and verbally abusing the men on the buses.
23 Order was eventually established when the JNA military police removed the
24 Territorial Defence members and the paramilitary forces from the barracks
25 compound. JNA soldiers had also removed some 12 to 15 identified men from
1 the buses. These men were beaten with rifle-butts, punched, and kicked,
2 and then taken back to the hospital, where the accused
3 Veselin Sljivancanin, in consultation with leaders of the local
4 Territorial Defence, questioned them about their possible involvement in
5 the Croatian forces. These men were hospital staff or family members of
6 hospital staff. They had been returned to the hospital on the orders of
7 Veselin Sljivancanin. Some of these men were sent back to the JNA
8 barracks, the others were allowed to join the convoy of women and
10 In the meantime, that, morning the self-described government of
11 Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Srem, operating in the area of Vukovar,
12 which had been established by Serb people in the area, held a meeting at
13 Velepromet. This government will be referred to as the local Serb
14 government. Goran Hadzic was present as the prime minister of the
15 government and Slavko Dokmanovic as the minister of agriculture.
16 Captain Jaksic of the Vukovar Territorial Defence was present, as well as
17 two senior officers of the JNA: Lieutenant-Colonel Panic, Chief of Staff
18 of Operation Group south, and Colonel Vujic from the security
19 administration in Belgrade. At this meeting there was strong opposition
20 to the JNA removing prisoners of war from Vukovar to Sremska Mitrovica in
21 Serbia. Some spoke of putting the war criminals on trial in Vukovar
22 before local judiciary. At this, meeting Lieutenant-Colonel Panic
23 conveyed from the accused Mile Mrksic that he, that is, Mrksic, was
24 prepared to act in accordance with the decision of the government meeting
25 as to what should be done with the prisoners of war from Vukovar Hospital.
1 However, the decision indicates that no final decision was reached during
2 the actual meeting, although late that day the Prime Minister Goran Hadzic
3 stated that an agreement had been reached for the prisoners to be detained
4 in "our detention camps" in the surroundings of Vukovar. What followed is
5 consistent with this.
6 After this meeting of the local Serb government the buses, still
7 loaded with the men, prisoner from the hospital under armed guard, left
8 the JNA barracks together and went not to Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia but
9 to the hangar at Ovcara. They arrived there between 1330 and 1430 hours.
10 The buses were emptied one by one and, as they were unloading, a gauntlet
11 of two rows of soldiers, about 10 to 15 on each side, was formed. The
12 prisoners had to pass between the soldiers who were beating them severely
13 with wooden sticks, rifle-butts, poles, chains, and even crutches. The
14 prisoners of war were then forced into the hangar and remained imprisoned
15 there under inhumane conditions until late that evening. The vast
16 majority of the prisoners in the hangar were further severely beaten in
17 many cases with implements such as iron rods and rifle-butts and kicked.
18 Several prisoners, believed to have been prominent within the Croatian
19 forces, were beaten particularly severely. Witnesses believed that some
20 may have died of the beatings. Some sort of a roster system was
21 established with different shifts of beaters taking turns in mistreating
22 the prisoners.
23 The soldiers who participated in the violent gauntlet in front of
24 the hangar and in the beatings inside the hangar were Serb Territorial
25 Defence soldiers, including a leader, Miroljub Vujovic, and paramilitary
1 soldiers. They had followed the buses to Ovcara and remained there until
2 late that evening. One or more JNA soldiers may also have participated in
3 the beatings at their own volition.
4 When the buses with the prisoners of war arrived at the hangar,
5 there were some 15 to 20 JNA soldiers to secure the prisoners. They were
6 primarily JNA military policemen. More JNA military police arrived later.
7 Their efforts at securing the prisoners were inconsistent and
8 insufficient. At times members of the Territorial Defence and
9 paramilitaries were kept outside the hangar, but at other times,
10 especially when the prisoners first arrived, they had unrestricted access
11 to the prisoners of war.
12 A number of senior JNA officers came to Ovcara in the afternoon of
13 the 20th of November. They saw what was happening. Some of them took
14 steps to ensure that the military police were more effective. These
15 efforts were either not effective or were only effective for a limited
17 That evening at a time between 2000 hours and 2100 hours, the
18 order came from Mile Mrksic at Operational Group South for the JNA
19 military police guarding the prisoners of war to withdraw. They did
20 withdraw before 2100 hours leaving the Serb Territorial Defence and
21 paramilitary forces with unrestricted access to the prisoners. The
22 prisoners of war were left in the custody of the Vukovar Territorial
23 Defence, who were at the time under the command of Miroljub Vujovic.
24 The prisoners were then taken by Territorial Defence and
25 paramilitary forces in small groups to an isolated location and shot.
1 Their bodies were buried there in a mass grave that had been dug earlier
2 that day. The grave remained undiscovered until almost one year later,
3 and the exhumation process did not begin until 1996. 200 bodies were
4 exhumed. Detailed autopsies have been conducted. The Chamber finds from
5 all the evidence that all 200 persons died on the night of the 20th/21st
6 of November, 1991, at Ovcara from trauma caused by physical violence in
7 almost all cases from one or more gun-shot wounds.
8 190 of the 200 persons buried in the mass grave have been
9 identified; they are among those named in the indictment. The evidence
10 also establishes that another four identified persons, who were held as
11 prisoners at the hangar that day, have not been seen since. Each of them
12 was severely beaten that day by Serb forces. It cannot be determined from
13 the evidence whether their bodies are among the ten unidentified bodies
14 found in the mass grave. In the judgement the Chamber has set out the
15 effect of some other evidence relating to other persons named in the
16 indictment as victims of the murder. For reasons given, the Chamber has
17 not been able to conclude whether some or all of these persons died at
18 Ovcara as alleged. Our findings, of course, do not preclude that more
19 than 200 persons, of whom 194 have been identified, died at Ovcara that
20 day. However, the available evidence does not enable that to be
21 determined. It is established that 194 of the victims named in the
22 indictment were murdered at Ovcara by Serb forces on the night of the
23 20th/21st of November, 1991.
24 Counts 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 of the indictment are charged as crimes
25 against humanity under Article 5 of the Statute of the Tribunal. For
1 reasons set out in the judgement, it is necessary, for the purposes of
2 Article 5 of the Statute, that the victims of the underlying crime must be
3 civilians. "Civilian" in Article 5 of the Statute does not include
4 combatants or fighters hors de combat. In the present case the persons
5 removed by the JNA forces from Vukovar Hospital on 20th of November, 1991,
6 and murdered at Ovcara by Serb forces had been specifically identified and
7 selected because of their own, or believed, involvement in the Croatian
8 forces in Vukovar. The Serb forces who mistreated the victims and
9 murdered them acted on the understanding that the victims were prisoners
10 of war, not civilians. The jurisdictional prerequisites to Article 5 of
11 the Statute have not been established. It follows that convictions should
12 not be rendered in respect of Counts 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6. These charges
13 will be dismissed with respect to all three accused, and in this summary
14 the Chamber will not discuss these counts any further.
15 Counts 4, 7, and 8 of the indictment, which are based essentially
16 on the same conduct, are charged as war crimes under Article 3 of the
17 Statute. Article 3 applies to offences against prisoners of war. The
18 Chamber is satisfied that an armed conflict existed in Croatia at the
19 material time and that other jurisdictional requirements for Article 3
20 have been established. The conduct of each of the three accused will,
21 therefore, be fully considered in connection with these charges of war
23 Count 4 alleges the offence of murder with respect to at least 264
24 persons identified in the indictment. For reasons which have been
25 explained, Count 4 has been established with respect to 194 identified
1 victims of murder. The evidence that is available does not enable
2 findings to be made about the other persons listed in the indictment.
3 Counts 7 and 8 allege, respectively, the offences of torture and
4 of cruel treatment. These charges rely on the imprisonment of the
5 prisoners of war at the hangar at Ovcara were their physical abuse, the
6 conditions of detention, and the deprivation of medical care. The
7 evidence demonstrates that prisoners of war were beaten, in many cases
8 gravely, as punishment for their actual or believed involvement in the
9 Croat forces. This establishes the elements of the offence of torture,
10 Count 7. The same beatings would also constitute cruel treatment, Count
11 8, but as the physical acts are the same, only a conviction for torture is
12 appropriate. However, the elements of the offence of cruel treatment are
13 also established with respect to the conditions of detention at Ovcara.
14 The reasons are more fully given in the written judgement.
15 There remains the further critical issue whether the three accused
16 or any of them have been proved to have been criminally responsible for
17 the offences established by the Prosecution.
18 The main allegation in the indictment in this respect is that the
19 accused were involved in a joint criminal enterprise, a common purpose of
20 which the commission of the crimes alleged in the indictment. In essence,
21 the allegation is that the three accused men acted together to achieve the
22 murder of the prisoners of war from the hospital and their mistreatment.
23 There is no direct evidence which establishes this. While, on an
24 incomplete understanding of some of the events of the 20th and 21st of
25 November, and some isolated pieces of evidence, such a view could be
1 suggested. In the finding of the Chamber, the evidence does not establish
2 that these three accused or any of them joined in any joint criminal
3 enterprise for the commission of the offences charged in the indictment.
4 While many of the facts that follow were strenuously contested,
5 the evidence establishes, in the Chamber's view, that on the orders of the
6 accused Mile Mrksic given on the 19th of November, 1991, implemented by
7 the accused Veselin Sljivancanin, the prisoners of war were taken from the
8 hospital on the morning of the 20th of November and eventually to Ovcara.
9 The Chamber is satisfied, however, that the original intention of
10 Mile Mrksic was for the prisoners of war to be taken to Sremska Mitrovica,
11 among other things with a view to their being later exchanged for Serb
12 prisoners of war held by Croatian authorities. This was the order given
13 to Veselin Sljivancanin and communicated to many others involved in the
14 evacuation. It was what had been done with other prisoners of war on the
15 preceding days.
16 During the morning of the 20th of November, the accused
17 Mile Mrksic changed his mind and then his orders. First, the prisoners
18 were held in buses at the JNA barracks, and then at the hangar at Ovcara,
19 but in each case they were still guarded, albeit less than effectively, by
20 JNA military police. Eventually, late in the day, the accused Mile Mrksic
21 decided and ordered that the JNA military police guarding the prisoners be
22 withdrawn. The effect of the evidence is that it was at the time of this
23 order that the accused Mile Mrksic finally decided that the prisoners of
24 war should be left in the custody of the Vukovar Territorial Defence. The
25 full reasons for his conduct are known only to Mile Mrksic. The wishes of
1 the local Serb government, which had no lawful authority or power to
2 direct the accused Mile Mrksic or the JNA as to what should be done with
3 the prisoners of war, appear to have been a significant factor.
4 What is material is that the evidence does not indicate that at
5 any time either Veselin Sljivancanin or Miroslav Radic had any involvement
6 in the process by which Mile Mrksic came to reach his decision that the
7 JNA should relinquish its custody of the prisoners of war by withdrawing
8 the JNA military police who were guarding them. These factual
9 circumstances preclude any conclusion that the accused men were acting
10 together in a joint criminal enterprise.
11 The indictment also alleges that Mile Mrksic is, among other forms
12 of liability, responsible for having ordered the commission of the crimes
13 with which he was charged. However, there is a complete absence of
14 evidence to support such a conclusion. Even though, as the commander of
15 Operational Group South, Mile Mrksic was in the position of authority in
16 respect of the Territorial Defence and paramilitary forces who perpetrated
17 the crimes of cruel treatment, torture, and murder at Ovcara, it has not
18 been established that he ordered them to commit the crimes charged.
19 Mile Mrksic, however, knew of intense feelings of animosity
20 harboured by the Serb Territorial Defence and paramilitary forces against
21 members of the Croat forces. In particular this had been demonstrated in
22 the course of that day by conduct at the JNA barracks and at Ovcara, which
23 had been reported to Mile Mrksic by a number of JNA officers. He had also
24 been informed of killings at Velepromet the previous day. By ordering the
25 JNA military police to withdraw from Ovcara, when he knew of the high risk
1 to the prisoners of war of serious violence and death at the hands of
2 Territorial Defence and paramilitary forces, Mile Mrksic aided and abetted
3 the murders that were committed as a consequence of his order for
4 withdrawal. For these reasons, the Chamber finds that Mile Mrksic is
5 responsible under Article 7(1) of the Statute for having aided and abetted
6 the offence of murder.
7 Further, Mile Mrksic took no steps during the afternoon of the
8 20th of November to reinforce the guards at Ovcara or to improve in any
9 way the measures for securing the prisoners of war from violence and other
10 cruel treatment at the hands of the Territorial Defence and paramilitary
11 forces, despite having been informed of the severe mistreatment that was
12 occurring. By his failure to act, Mile Mrksic rendered both practical
13 assistance and encouragement to those at Ovcara who sought revenge on the
14 prisoners of war. JNA forces which he commanded had earlier established
15 and maintained the inhumane conditions of detention of the prisoners.
16 Mile Mrksic is, therefore, found responsible under Article 7(1) of the
17 Statute for having aided and abetted the crimes of torture and cruel
19 The Prosecution case against Miroslav Radic is that, through his
20 participation in the evacuation of the hospital, he too participated in
21 the joint criminal enterprise alleged in the indictment or aided and
22 abetted the crimes. It is also alleged that the crimes at Ovcara were
23 committed by soldiers under his command so that he is also responsible as
24 a superior of the direct perpetrators.
25 The evidence has established that Miroslav Radic was at the
1 hospital on the 19th of November, 1991, and that JNA soldiers under his
2 command provided the initial security of the hospital. It has further
3 been established that Miroslav Radic was present at the compound of the
4 hospital in the morning of the 20th of November, but not that he
5 participated in the triage in front of the hospital. There is no evidence
6 that Miroslav Radic was at Ovcara on the 20th of November. For reasons
7 mentioned when discussing the responsibility of Mile Mrksic, there is no
8 evidence which establishes that Miroslav Radic participated in a joint
9 criminal enterprise as alleged, or that he aided and abetted the crimes
10 charged. Two witnesses gave quite different evidence suggesting that
11 Miroslav Radic was informed that soldiers under his command had
12 participated in the mistreatment and killing of prisoners at Ovcara. A
13 further witness suggested that he was aware of the events at Ovcara. The
14 Chamber was not able to accept the honesty of two of these witnesses or
15 the reliability of the third witness. Hence, for reasons fully set out in
16 the written judgement, the Chamber finds that it has not been established
17 by the Prosecution that Miroslav Radic had knowledge or reason to know
18 that soldiers under his command had committed crimes at Ovcara. His
19 responsibility under Article 7(3), as the superior of actual perpetrators,
20 has not been established.
21 Turning next to the accused Veselin Sljivancanin. The Chamber
22 observes that for reasons expressed when discussing the responsibility of
23 Mile Mrksic, the evidence does not establish that Veselin Sljivancanin
24 participated in any joint criminal enterprise as alleged in the
1 The indictment also alleges that Veselin Sljivancanin is
2 responsible under Article 7(1) of the Statute, for having ordered the
3 commission of the crimes alleged in the indictment. There is no evidence
4 to suggest that Veselin Sljivancanin ordered any forces at Ovcara to
5 commit any of the offences charged in the indictment. Further, the crimes
6 in this case were perpetrated by Territorial Defence and paramilitary
7 forces; Veselin Sljivancanin had no power of command over those forces.
8 On the evidence, Veselin Sljivancanin cannot be held responsible under
9 Article 7(1) of the Statute for having ordered the commission of any of
10 the crimes established in this case, nor does the evidence establish his
11 responsibility under Article 7(3) for having failed to prevent the
12 commission of crimes or to punish the perpetrators.
13 It is the Chamber's finding that on the 20th of November, 1991,
14 Veselin Sljivancanin exercised command authority, conferred on him by
15 Mile Mrksic, over the military police involved in the evacuation of
16 prisoners of war from the hospital and guarding them on the buses and at
17 Ovcara. It is not alleged, nor does the evidence establish, that members
18 of the military police perpetrated any of the crimes in this case. On the
19 contrary, they were involved, albeit unsatisfactorily, in securing the
20 prisoners of war from mistreatment by the Territorial Defence and
21 paramilitary forces.
22 As the facts of this case reveal, the security provided to the
23 prisoners of war at Ovcara was insufficient. The number of military
24 police troops at Ovcara was far too low and their performance was at times
25 unsatisfactory, so that for much of the time the prisoners were exposed to
1 the hostile acts of the Territorial Defence and paramilitary forces who
2 had gathered at Ovcara.
3 Contrary to his own and other evidence, the Chamber finds that
4 Veselin Sljivancanin was at Ovcara for a time when mistreatment to the
5 prisoners was occurring; he was thus able to observe the brutal conduct of
6 the Territorial Defence and paramilitary forces and became aware that
7 serious crimes were being committed against the prisoners of war. In
8 addition, he knew of past events of the same nature, in particular the
9 mistreatment and killings of Croat prisoners of war by local Serb
10 Territorial Defence and paramilitary forces at Velepromet on the preceding
11 day as well as of other similar incidents that had taken place in the area
12 of Vukovar in the months of October and November 1991. However, he chose
13 not to resort to any of the measures available to him to seek to prevent
14 what was occurring. He failed to discharge the duty of care for prisoners
15 of war kept in the custody of the JNA, a duty which was imposed on him by
16 the laws of war and which was part of his responsibility as the security
17 organ and by the specific authority or responsibility placed on him by
18 Mile Mrksic. Veselin Sljivancanin could have sought or ordered additional
19 troops to go to Ovcara. He could have given orders to the military police
20 present there to enhance the protection. He failed to give appropriate
21 orders or take other appropriate action. This facilitated the continuing
22 mistreatment of prisoners of war, and thus the commission of the crimes of
23 torture and cruel treatment, as can only have been obvious to him in the
24 circumstances. For these reasons, the responsibility of
25 Veselin Sljivancanin, pursuant to Article 7(1) of the Statute, for having
1 aided and abetted the crimes of torture and cruel treatment has been
3 He has not been found responsible, however, for having aided and
4 abetted the crime of cruel treatment committed by the imposition of
5 inhumane conditions of detention in the hangar at Ovcara, as the evidence
6 does not demonstrate that Veselin Sljivancanin entered the hangar so as to
7 be able to observe the conditions of detention in the hangar.
8 The crime of murder was committed during the night after the
9 withdrawal of all JNA military police from Ovcara, pursuant to the order
10 of Mile Mrksic. By that order, Veselin Sljivancanin necessarily ceased to
11 be responsible for the security of the prisoners of war, and his command
12 authority in respect of the military police that provided security came to
13 an end. He is not responsible, therefore, for the murders committed by
14 the Territorial Defence and paramilitary troops after the JNA military
15 police were withdrawn from Ovcara.
16 With respect to sentence, the Chamber has set out in the written
17 judgement the many factors that have been taken into account in assessing
18 appropriate sentences. In particular, the Chamber has taken into account,
19 as it is required to do, the sentencing structure in the former
20 Yugoslavia. The Chamber notes that the effect today of the law in both
21 Serbia and Croatia for murder and for aiding and abetting murder committed
22 in 1991 in the circumstances of this case is to allow a maximum penalty of
23 imprisonment for 20 years. It has also looked at sentences imposed in
24 this Tribunal, but it has not found other cases where the circumstances
25 are sufficiently similar to this case to provide any useful guide.
1 The Chamber would emphasise that this case concerns essentially
2 the tragic events at Ovcara on the 20th of November, 1991, when, as it has
3 been proved, 194 identified persons were murdered and earlier prisoners of
4 war were tortured by being severely beaten as punishment for their
5 participation in the Croat forces in the struggle for Vukovar. They were
6 also cruelly treated by being held captive by the JNA in inhumane
7 conditions. The evidence shows that the actual perpetrators of the
8 murders and torture and associated beatings were members of the Serb
9 Territorial Defence forces, many from the Vukovar area itself, and Serb
10 paramilitary forces. The murders, torture, and associated beatings were
11 not ordered by either Mile Mrksic or Veselin Sljivancanin.
12 Mile Mrksic is to be punished for aiding and abetting the murders
13 because, knowing of the presence of the Territorial Defence and
14 paramilitary forces at Ovcara and of the threat they presented to the
15 prisoners of war, apparently in response to pressure from the local Serb
16 government, he withdrew the JNA troops guarding the prisoners, with the
17 consequence that the Territorial Defence and paramilitary forces were able
18 to murder the prisoners. JNA forces which he had established had earlier
19 established the inhumane conditions of detention and he failed to act
20 effectively during the afternoon to ensure that the prisoners were
21 properly protected by JNA guards from torture by Serb Territorial Defence
22 and paramilitary forces.
23 Veselin Sljivancanin is to be punished for aiding and abetting
24 torture because he failed, either or both, to act to secure adequate JNA
25 guards at Ovcara or to ensure that JNA guards at Ovcara under his
1 authority acted to prevent the Serb Territorial Defence and paramilitary
2 forces from beating the prisoners of war to punish them for their role in
3 the Croat forces at Vukovar.
4 Mile Mrksic, will you please stand.
5 [The accused Mrksic stands up]
6 JUDGE PARKER: The Chamber finds you guilty pursuant to Article
7 7(1) of the Statute of the following counts:
8 Count 4: Murder, a violation of the laws or customs of war, under
9 Article 3 of the Statute, for having aided and abetted the murder of 194
10 persons identified in the schedule to this judgement, at a site located
11 near the hangar at Ovcara on the 20th and 21st of November, 1991.
12 Count 7: Torture, a violation of the laws or customs of war,
13 under Article 3 of the Statute, for having aided and abetted the torture
14 of the prisoners of war at the hangar at Ovcara on the 20th of November,
16 Count 8: Cruel treatment, a violation of the laws or customs of
17 war, under Article 3 of the Statute, for having aided and abetted the
18 maintenance of inhumane conditions of detention at the hangar at Ovcara on
19 the 20th of November, 1991.
20 Mile Mrksic, you are sentenced to a single sentence of 20 years'
21 imprisonment. Full credit will be given for the time you have spent in
22 custody. You will remain in the custody of the Tribunal pending the
23 finalisation of arrangements for your transfer to the state where you will
24 serve your sentence.
25 You may sit down.
1 [The accused Mrksic sits down]
2 JUDGE PARKER: Miroslav Radic, would you please stand.
3 [The accused Radic stands up]
4 JUDGE PARKER: The Chamber finds you not guilty on all counts in
5 the indictment. The Chamber orders that you be released from United
6 Nations Detention Unit immediately on the completion of the necessary
7 modalities. You may sit down.
8 [The accused Radic sits down]
9 [The accused Sljivancanin stands up]
10 JUDGE PARKER: Veselin Sljivancanin, the Chamber finds you guilty
11 pursuant to Article 7(1) of the Statute of the following count:
12 Count 7: Torture, a violation of the laws or customs of war,
13 under Article 3 of the Statute, for having aided and abetted the torture
14 of prisoners of war at the hangar at Ovcara on the 20th of November, 1991.
15 The Chamber finds you not guilty on all other counts.
16 Veselin Sljivancanin, you are sentenced to five years'
17 imprisonment. Full credit will be given for the time you have spent in
18 custody. You will remain in the custody of the Tribunal pending the
19 finalisation of arrangements for your transfer to the state where you will
20 serve your sentence.
21 You may sit down.
22 [The accused Sljivancanin sits down]
23 JUDGE PARKER: That concludes this trial.
24 The Chamber will now adjourn.
25 --- Whereupon the Judgement adjourned at 4.32 p.m.