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Appeals Chamber upholds convictions of five senior Bosnian Serb officials for Srebrenica and Žepa crimes

(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)
The Hague, 30 January 2015

Appeals Chamber upholds convictions of five senior Bosnian Serb officials for Srebrenica and Žepa crimes

Today, the Appeals Chamber issued its Judgement in the Popović et al. case, concerning five senior Bosnian Serbian military officials for crimes perpetrated by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995, following the takeover of the protected areas of Srebrenica and Žepa.

The final convictions for the five Appellants stand as follows.

Vujadin Popović and Ljubiša Beara were found guilty of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, violations of the laws or customs of war, and crimes against humanity, through their participation in a Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE). Their sentences of life imprisonment were affirmed.

Drago Nikolić’s convictions for aiding and abetting genocide, and crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war through his participation in a JCE were upheld. His sentence of 35 years of imprisonment was affirmed.

Radivoje Miletić was found guilty of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war, through his participation in a JCE. His sentence of 19 years of imprisonment was reduced to 18 years of imprisonment.

Finally, Vinko Pandurević was found guilty of aiding and abetting violations of the laws or customs of war and crimes against humanity. He was also found guilty of failing to prevent and punish the crimes of his subordinates. His sentence of 13 years of imprisonment was affirmed.

During the relevant period the five Appellants served in senior positions in the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS). Vujadin Popović was Chief of Security of the Drina Corps, Ljubiša Beara was Chief of Security in the Main Staff, Drago Nikolić served as Chief of Security in the VRS Zvornik Brigade, Radivoje Miletić was Chief of the Operations and Training Administration of the Main Staff, and Vinko Pandurević held the post of Commander of the Zvornik Brigade.

The Appeals Chamber dismissed, unanimously or by majority, most of the Appellants’ challenges.

In the cases of Vujadin Popović and Ljubiša Beara, the Appeals Chamber granted, Judge Niang dissenting, their appeal regarding the killing of six Bosnian Muslim men near Trnovo by the Scorpions paramilitary unit. Consequently, the Judges reversed their convictions with regard to that killing.

The Appeals Chamber also granted in part, Judge Niang dissenting, the Prosecution’s appeal to enter convictions for conspiracy to commit genocide against both Popović and Beara. The Judges then entered, Judge Pocar dissenting, a conviction against the two Appellants for this crime.

Regarding Drago Nikolić, the Appeals Chamber reversed, Judge Niang dissenting, his convictions for the killing of six Bosnian Muslim men near Trnovo.

The Appeals Chamber also reversed Radivoje Miletić’s convictions for persecution and inhumane acts (forcible transfer) as crimes against humanity in connection with the forcible transfer of the Bosnian Muslim men who crossed the Drina River, fleeing Žepa. The Judges granted in part his ground of appeal concerning sentencing, recognizing that the Trial Chamber erred in law by considering his use of authority within the VRS Main Staff as an aggravating circumstance.

The Appeals Chamber also granted the Prosecution’s ground of appeal regarding “opportunistic” killings in Potočari, and entered, Judge Pocar dissenting, a conviction against Miletić for murder as a violation of the laws or customs of war for these killings.

With respect to Vinko Pandurević, the Appeals Chamber granted the Prosecution’s appeal regarding a variety of incidents, and entered a number of new convictions. Pandurević was thus found guilty, Judge Niang dissenting, as an aider and abettor or through command responsibility, in relation to various criminal acts, of murder as a violation of the laws or customs of war, extermination as a crime against humanity, and persecution through murder and through cruel and inhumane treatment as a crime against humanity. The Appeals Chamber, Judge Pocar dissenting, entered new convictions for these crimes. The Appeals Chamber also set aside some of Pandurević’s convictions at trial.

In dismissing one of Pandurević’s challenges regarding aiding and abetting, the Appeals Chamber recalled that “specific direction” is not an element of aiding and abetting under customary international law.

Judge Patrick Robinson and Judge Fausto Pocar appended partially dissenting opinions, and Judge Mandiaye Niang appended separate and dissenting opinions.

The Popović et al. case is the Tribunal’s largest completed case to date. Trial proceedings began on 21 August 2006 and concluded on 15 September 2009. The Trial Chamber’s Judgement was issued on 10 June 2010. Trial proceedings involved a total of seven accused, including also Ljubomir Borovčanin, former Deputy Commander of the Republika Srpska Ministry of Internal Affairs Special Police Brigade. He did not appeal the trial judgement and was transferred to Denmark in 2011 to serve his 17 year sentence. Following the death of Milan Gvero, Assistant Commander for Morale, Legal and Religious Affairs of the VRS Main Staff, the Appeals Chamber terminated proceedings against him in March 2013 and held the Trial Judgement to be final in his regard.

The Tribunal has indicted 20 individuals for crimes committed in Srebrenica in July 1995. Among these is Radislav Krstić who was the first individual to be convicted of aiding and abetting genocide in Srebrenica and sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment on 19 April 2004. The cases of Ratko Mladić, Radovan Karadžić, Zdravko Tolimir as well as Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović are ongoing.

Since its establishment, the Tribunal has indicted 161 persons for serious violations of humanitarian law committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001. Proceedings against 146 individuals have been concluded, and are still ongoing for 15 Accused, with four at trial stage and 11 before the Appeals Chamber. 

Judgement summary


Case information page