The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague will on Monday began a seven-day hearing on the appeals against the first-instance judgment filed by six Bosnian Croats convicted of war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, reports tportal.hr on March 19, 2017.
In May 2013, ICTY sentenced the six Bosnian Croats to prison sentences of between 10 and 25 years for crimes against Muslims during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s. Importantly, the court also determined that they committed the crimes as part of a joint criminal enterprise. The six convicted Bosnian Croats are: former prime minister of the Herceg Bosna Jadranko Prlić, former defence minister Bruno Stojić, former chiefs of the HVO general staff Slobodan Praljak and Milivoj Petković, former military police commander Valentin Ćorić, and chief of the Office for exchange of prisoners Berislav Pušić.
The trial chamber concluded that the conflict between HVO and Bosnian Army in 1993 and 1994 was an international conflict, and that most of the crimes were committed as part of a joint criminal enterprise which also included Croatian political and military leadership, including then Croatian President Franjo Tuđman. The aim of this alleged joint criminal enterprise was the establishment of Croatian entity and its annexation to Croatia in the event of the dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In their appeals, the six Bosnian Croats say there was no such joint criminal enterprise, and seek to be released, to go to a retrial, or at least have their prison sentences significantly reduced. On the other hand, the prosecution demands even harsher sentences.
During the review process, Croatia requested to get involved in the proceedings due to the fact that in the first-instance verdict, the highest Croatian officials – former President Franjo Tuđman, former Defence Minister Gojko Šusak and former Chief of Staff of the Croatian Army General Janko Bobetko – are said to be part of a joint criminal enterprise for the purpose of ethnic cleansing of parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatia said that the trial chamber in 2013, in its verdict written on more than 2,000 pages, did not offer any evidence to support the conclusion that Tuđman, Šušak and Bobetko committed or intended to commit the crimes, and that with such verdict the ICTY had violated the European Convention on Human Rights because it called into question the presumption of innocence of the deceased Croatian officials. ICTY refused the request of Croatia.
The final judgment of the appeals chamber presided over by Judge Carmel Agius is expected by the end of the year.