Momcilo Perisic Convicted for Crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia
A Guest Post by Liam Sabec, LLB Student, University of Sussex
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has convicted Momcilo Perišic, former Chief of General Staff of the Yugoslav Army from August 1993 to November 1998, for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia and sentenced him to 27 years’ imprisonment. The judgment is the first handed down against an official of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Judge Moloto, presiding, stated that Yugoslav Army assistance to the Bosnia and Herzegovina-based Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) and the Croatia-based Army of Serbian Krajina (SVK) “became more centralised, structured and coordinated during General Perišic’s tenure” - including the creation of personnel centres to maintain the status of Yugoslav Army officers serving in the VRS and SVK.
The Trial Chamber, by majority, found Perišic guilty of aiding and abetting inhumane acts, acts of persecution and attacks on civilians in Sarajevo and Srebrenica, noting that he aware of both the campaign of shelling and sniping against civilians in Sarajevo and the probability of forcible transfer, killings and other abuses against Bosnian Muslims once Srebrenica had fallen under VRS control. The Trial Chamber concluded that “General Perišic repeatedly exercised his authority to provide logistical and personnel assistance that made it possible for the VRS to wage a war while he had knowledge that the VRS’s operations encompassed grave and systematic crimes against Muslim civilians”.
Perišic was also found guilty, on the basis of command responsibility, of murder and targeting, injuring and wounding civilians in regards to SVK rocket attacks on Zagreb in May 1995 which left 7 people dead and 100 injured. Perišic was found to have exercised effective control over Yugoslav Army officers serving in the SVK through his ability to issue command orders and initiate disciplinary proceedings. He was found guilty of failing to take reasonable measures to punish the perpetrators of the attacks despite being immediately notified of them.
However, the Trial Chamber unanimously acquitted Perišic of aiding and abetting extermination, as a crime against humanity, at Srebrenica on the grounds that it could not be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that he could have reasonably foreseen the systematic extermination of thousands of Muslims following VRS’s seizure of the town. Perišic was also acquitted of command responsibility in regards to crimes at Sarajevo and Srebrenica, the Trial Chamber finding that “Even though General Perišic had a collaborative relationship with Mladic and substantially aided his operations, the evidence does not establish that he exercised effective control over him”.
Both the defence and the prosecution have the right to appeal the decision. The proceedings are the 126th concluded by the Tribunal for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed on the territory of former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001, with proceeding ongoing for 35 accused.
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