Tribunal Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Page 137

1 Wednesday, 7 December 2005

2 [Judgement]

3 [The accused entered court]

4 --- Upon commencing at 8.04 a.m.

5 JUDGE BONOMY: Will the registrar please call the case.

6 THE REGISTRAR: Good morning, Your Honours. This is case number

7 IT-95-17-S, the Prosecutor versus Miroslav Bralo.

8 JUDGE BONOMY: Thank you. May I now have the appearances. First

9 for the Prosecution.

10 MR. HARMON: Good morning, Your Honours; good morning counsel.

11 Mark Harmon and Fergal Gaynor for the Prosecution. Sebastiaan Van

12 Hooydonk is the case manager.

13 JUDGE BONOMY: Thank you, Mr. Harmon. And for the accused.

14 MR. COOPER: Good morning, Your Honours. My name is J. Cooper,

15 lead counsel for Mr. Bralo. I'm joined by legal consultant Virginia

16 Lindsay and investigator Snezana Bukal.

17 JUDGE BONOMY: Thank you, Mr. Cooper.

18 Mr. Bralo, are you able to hear the proceedings in a language

19 which you can understand? Can you now hear the proceedings in a language

20 which you can understand?

21 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Yes, Your Honour.

22 JUDGE BONOMY: Thank you. Please be seated.

23 This is a hearing pursuant to Rule 100(B) of the Tribunal's Rules

24 for the Trial Chamber to pronounce sentence on Mr. Bralo for the crimes of

25 which he has been convicted. What I'm going to do is read a summary of

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1 the written sentencing judgement. The summary itself forms no part of the

2 written judgement. Copies of that judgement will be made available to the

3 parties and to the public at the end of the hearing.

4 Before I read the summary I'd like to thank both Prosecution and

5 Defence for all of their submissions, both in writing and during the

6 sentencing hearing on the 20th of October. These submissions were

7 comprehensive and well presented and have been extremely useful to the

8 Trial Chamber.

9 On the 19th of July this year, Miroslav Bralo pleaded guilty to

10 charges contained in eight counts of an Amended Indictment that was filed

11 by the Prosecution that same day. The guilty pleas were accompanied by a

12 written, public plea agreement reached between Mr. Bralo and the

13 Prosecution, containing a Factual Basis for the crimes contained in the

14 Amended Indictment. Being satisfied that the guilty pleas were voluntary,

15 were unequivocal, and were made in an informed manner, Trial Chamber I

16 entered convictions against Mr. Bralo for each of the eight counts.

17 Following his conviction, the case was transferred to this Trial

18 Chamber, which held a sentencing hearing on the 20th of October. At the

19 hearing, the Prosecution and Defence made oral submissions to assist the

20 Chamber in its determination of an appropriate sentence. In addition, the

21 Chamber received written briefs from both Prosecution and Defence, which

22 included witness statements and other documents considered relevant by the

23 parties. The Chamber also heard briefly from Mr. Bralo himself at the

24 hearing.

25 On the basis of these submissions and its analysis of the Factual

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1 Basis appended to the Plea Agreement, the Trial Chamber has made its

2 determination of sentence. Before pronouncing that sentence, I will

3 outline the factors that were given consideration in accordance with the

4 Tribunal's Statute and Rules.

5 First, the Trial Chamber analysed the gravity of the crimes

6 committed by Mr. Bralo. In the course of this analysis, the Trial Chamber

7 also considered all of the circumstances surrounding the commission of the

8 crimes that serve to aggravate their seriousness.

9 With regard to the first count of the Indictment - the charge of

10 persecution as a crime against humanity - the Trial Chamber notes that

11 this is an extremely serious offence involving a deliberate intention to

12 discriminate against a particular group of people in the context of a

13 widespread or systematic attack upon a civilian population. The

14 population in question is the Bosnian Muslim community in the villages of

15 Ahmici and Nadioci, which was attacked in April 1993 by forces of the

16 Croatian Defence Council, the HVO. Mr. Bralo participated in this attack

17 as a member of the Jokers, the anti-terrorist platoon of the 4th Military

18 Police Battalion of the HVO. He has admitted criminal conduct amounting

19 to persecution in the course of the attack, including the murder of

20 Mirnesa Salkic, setting fire to numerous houses, setting and detonating

21 explosives that destroyed the lower mosque in Ahmici, the killing of an

22 unidentified adult male, and assistance in the killing of 14 Bosnian

23 Muslim civilians, all members of the Salkic and the Mehmet Ceremic

24 families, nine of whom were children.

25 The Trial Chamber finds that the gravity of this crime is further

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1 aggravated by the large number of victims and the young age of some of

2 those victims. The Chamber has also taken into consideration the

3 statements submitted by the Prosecution on the impact that Mr. Bralo's

4 crime of persecution has had and continues to have on those directly

5 affected by it. The statements of all of these people paint a picture of

6 shattered lives and livelihoods and of tremendous ongoing pain and trauma.

7 With regard to the second count of the Indictment, which relates

8 to the murder of three captured Muslim men by Mr. Bralo in April or May

9 1993, charged as a violation of the laws or customs of war, the Trial

10 Chamber again notes that this is an extremely serious crime. Moreover,

11 its gravity is aggravated by the fact that there were multiple murder

12 victims. The Chamber has also taken into consideration the impact of this

13 crime on the families of the deceased and has heard evidence of the

14 immense fear and distress experienced by one of these family members as a

15 consequence Mr. Bralo's actions.

16 The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth counts of the Indictment all

17 relate to Bralo's participation in the rape and imprisonment of a Bosnian

18 Muslim woman by the Jokers. In May 1993, he repeatedly raped this woman

19 in front of other soldiers, threatened to kill her, beat another man in

20 her presence, bit her, and ejaculated over her body. This brutal rape and

21 torture, along with her imprisonment for approximately two months to be

22 further violated at the whim of her captors, are crimes of a most depraved

23 nature. The Trial Chamber finds that the gravity of Mr. Bralo's criminal

24 conduct is aggravated by the manner in which he sought to debase, terrify,

25 and humiliate his victim and takes note of the comments given by her on

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1 the trauma that she has experienced and continues to experience.

2 Finally, the seventh and eighth counts of the Indictment pertain

3 to Mr. Bralo's involvement in the unlawful confinement and inhuman

4 treatment of Bosnian Muslim civilians who were used in April and May 1993

5 as labourers in the digging of trenches around the village of Kratine.

6 These civilians were also used as human shields to protect the HVO forces

7 from sniper-fire. Mr. Bralo and others prevented these civilians from

8 escaping, and he also forced them to perform a Catholic religious ritual.

9 The Trial Chamber again finds that these offences are of an extremely

10 serious nature and that Mr. Bralo's conduct violated the basic tenets of

11 international humanitarian law. The gravity of these crimes is also

12 aggravated by the number of victims involved.

13 The Chamber therefore concludes that you, Mr. Bralo, committed a

14 range of appalling crimes which must be condemned unequivocally. There

15 can be no excuse or justification for your actions, nor can your reasons

16 for abusing so many people be fathomed.

17 For the purposes of sentencing, the Chamber weighs against the

18 gravity of the crimes any mitigating circumstances that have been

19 established. The Defence has put forward many factors for consideration

20 in mitigation, some of which the Trial Chamber accepts. First and

21 foremost among the mitigating circumstances stands the fact that Mr. Bralo

22 pleaded guilty to his crimes well in advance of trial. Such a guilty plea

23 is a profound acknowledgement of personal responsibility and provides a

24 much greater contribution to the reconciliation of people in the affected

25 region than a finding of guilt after a trial in which the accused

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1 consistently denies his crimes. It also spares vulnerable victims and

2 witnesses from having to testify at trial, and furthers the judicial

3 process of the Tribunal. In addition, it is noteworthy that Mr. Bralo

4 admitted to a crime of persecution that was not originally charged in the

5 Indictment against him, leading to the addition of count 1 of the Amended

6 Indictment.

7 Evidence of Mr. Bralo's remorse has also been submitted, including

8 his written and oral statements and his attempts to assist in the location

9 and exhumation of the bodies of those who were killed by him and others in

10 the course of the attack on Ahmici, and in the identification of mined

11 areas. The Chamber accepts that his remorse is indeed sincere and

12 heartfelt and that he has undergone a personal transformation since the

13 commission of those crimes. The Chamber is confident that this

14 transformative process will continue as he serves his sentence and that

15 his punishment will have a further rehabilitative effect. The Chamber

16 also accepts that Mr. Bralo has made efforts to atone for his crimes by

17 engaging in community work and in assisting in the location of the remains

18 of some of his victims.

19 Another factor considered in mitigation of sentence is his

20 voluntary surrender to the Tribunal. In addition, his family and personal

21 circumstances, his behaviour in detention, and his cooperation with the

22 Prosecution have also been taken into account, although these particular

23 matters have been given only limited weight in this case by the Trial

24 Chamber.

25 The Chamber has also given consideration to the general practice

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1 regarding prison sentences in the former Yugoslavia and finds that Article

2 142 of the Criminal Code of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

3 has some bearing in the present case for it covers crimes committed during

4 an armed conflict, including killings, torture, inhuman treatment, rape

5 and unlawful detention. This provision permitted a range of sentences

6 from five years' imprisonment to death for crimes of this nature.

7 Subsequent to the abolition of the death penalty in Bosnia and

8 Herzegovina, long-term imprisonment is foreseen instead.

9 Having carefully considered all of these factors, the Trial

10 Chamber has arrived at its sentence.

11 Now, Mr. Bralo, as I pronounce sentence, would you please stand.

12 In light of the crimes of which you have been convicted, which are

13 of an extremely serious and brutal nature, if there were no mitigating

14 circumstances the Trial Chamber would sentence you to at least 25 years'

15 imprisonment. However, there are factors that merit a material

16 modification of this sentence; in particular, your guilty plea prior to

17 trial and your remorse and steps towards rehabilitation. In light of

18 these factors, the Trial Chamber sentences you to a term of 20 years'

19 imprisonment. You are entitled to credit for the period of time that you

20 have already served in detention, namely from the 12th of November, 2004,

21 up until and including today. You will remain in the custody of the

22 Tribunal pending finalisation of arrangements for your transfer to the

23 State where your sentence will be served.

24 That completes the summary. This hearing is now adjourned.

25 --- Whereupon the Judgement adjourned at 8.19 a.m.