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Zdravko Tolimir sentenced to life imprisonment for Srebrenica and Žepa crimes

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

The Hague, 12 December 2012

Zdravko Tolimir sentenced to life imprisonment for Srebrenica and Žepa crimes


Zdravko Tolimir, former Assistant Commander and Chief for Intelligence and Security of the Main Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS),  was today sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in 1995 after the fall of the enclaves of Srebrenica and Žepa, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Tolimir was found guilty by the Majority of Trial Chamber II, Judge Nyambe dissenting, of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, murder as a violation of the laws or customs of war, as well as extermination, persecutions, inhumane acts through forcible transfer and murder as crimes against humanity. The Accused was found not guilty of the crime of deportation as a crime against humanity. The Majority did not enter a conviction for murder as crime against humanity on the basis of the principles relating to cumulative convictions.

Zdravko Tolimir was charged with the commission of crimes through the participation in two joint criminal enterprises (JCE). The aim of the first was to murder the able-bodied Bosnian Muslim men from the enclave of Srebrenica, between approximately 11 July and 1 November 1995. The goal of the second JCE was to forcibly remove and deport the Bosnian Muslim population from the enclaves of Srebrenica and Žepa from March to August 1995. The Trial Chamber, Judge Nyambe dissenting, established that Tolimir had participated in both JCEs and found him guilty of the crimes that were committed to further the goals of those criminal enterprises, except for the crime of deportation. The Accused was also found guilty, Judge Nyambe dissenting, of the foreseeable crimes resulting from both JCEs: the opportunistic killings of smaller groups of men from Srebrenica, the targeted killings of three Bosnian Muslim leaders of Žepa, and other persecutory acts.

The Chamber determined that that the murders of able-bodied men from the Srebrenica enclave were carried out with discriminatory intent so as to constitute persecutions. The Chamber found, moreover, that “the harm inflicted upon these men rises to the level of serious bodily and mental harm and constitute acts of genocide”. The Majority moreover established that removing the Bosnian Muslim civilian population from Žepa, demolishing their homes and the mosque, and killing three of the most prominent local leaders was carried out to ensure that the Bosnian Muslim population of this enclave would not be able to reconstitute itself. The Majority concluded that “the suffering of the women, children and elderly who were forcibly transferred from the Srebrenica and Žepa enclaves rises to the level of serious bodily or mental harm so as also to amount to genocide”. The Majority established that the “combined effect of the forcible removal and murder operation had a devastating effect on the physical survival of the Bosnian Muslim population of Eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina and is satisfied that these operations were aimed at destroying this population”.

The Majority determined that the Accused had the knowledge of and shared the genocidal intent of other JCE members, including that of his security and intelligence organs, who were extensively involved in carrying out both JCEs.

The Majority, Judge Nyambe dissenting, made a number of factual findings. They established that already in 1992 a policy existed at the highest levels of Republika Srpska to remove the Bosnian Muslim population from eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. This policy was reaffirmed by Directive 7 issued in March of 1995, signed by the President of the Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadžić, who was assisted in its drafting by various sectors within the VRS Main Staff, including the Sector of Intelligence and Security Affairs, headed by Zdravko Tolimir. After the fall of Srebrenica on 11 July 1995, and the flight of many civilians to the UN base in Potočari, members of the security organs under Tolimir’s professional command in the morning of 12 July discussed a plan to murder the men who were separated from the crowds in the UN base. The Majority, Judge Nyambe dissenting, found that in keeping with this plan, at least 1,000 men and boys were kept in horrid conditions, some of them physically mistreated, before being transported by bus to Bratunac. There, on 12 and 13 July, they were joined by thousands of Bosnian Muslim men from the column that was moving from Srebrenica towards Tuzla, and who had been captured by or surrendered to the Bosnian Serb forces.

The Majority, Judge Nyambe dissenting, found that from 13 July to sometime in August 1995, at least 4,970 Bosnian Muslim men from the Srebrenica enclave were murdered. The Majority emphasised that this was a conservative calculation of the minimum number. The Majority stated, Judge Nyambe dissenting, that the total number of Bosnian Muslim men from Srebrenica who were killed was, at a minimum, closer to 6,000.

The Chamber stated “that the suffering these men went through in the moments leading up to their deaths must have been unbearable. On many occasions, those who were waiting to be shot saw others before them executed. The few survivors who lived to provide their testimony before the Chamber gave harrowing accounts of what they had to endure.” The Trial Chamber underscored that the crimes that were committed “were massive in scale, severe in their intensity and devastating in their effect.” The Majority, Judge Nyambe dissenting, also considered “the extreme suffering of the approximately 30,000–35,000 women and children forcibly removed from both enclaves, and their inability to live a normal and constructive life to this day”.

The initial indictment against Zdravko Tolimir was confirmed on 10 February 2005 and made public on 25 February 2005. The Accused was arrested on 31 May 2007 and transferred into the Tribunal’s custody on 1 June 2007. His trial started on 26 February 2010.

Zdravko Tolimir’s trial is one of 12 proceedings at the Tribunal dealing with a range of crimes committed by the Bosnian Serb forces against Bosnian Muslims during and after the fall of the former UN protected zones of Srebrenica and Žepa in July 1995. Six of these cases have been completed.

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 130 individuals have been concluded.



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