The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia today overturned a former Bosnian Serb army commander’s conviction for complicity to commit genocide against Muslims at Srebrenica in July 1995, but upheld other convictions for his role in the mass killings there.
The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), sitting in The Hague, reduced the sentence of Vidoje Blagojević from 18 years’ jail to 15 years after reversing the complicity in genocide conviction.
But the judges confirmed his convictions – and that of Dragan Jokić, another Bosnian Serb army officer – for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war over their actions at Srebrenica, and upheld Mr. Jokić’s sentence of nine years in prison.
More than 7,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered in Srebrenica in July 1995 after Bosnian Serb forces overran what was supposed to be a UN-protected enclave, or safe haven, and the ICTY has found that the events there constituted genocide.
Mr. Blagojević, 56, served as commander of the Bosnian Serb army’s Bratunac Brigade while Mr. Jokić, 49, was the chief of engineering in the same army’s Zvornik Brigade, and both participated in the persecution and killings around Srebrenica.
Troops commanded by Mr. Blagojević fired on the Srebrenica enclave, attacked a group of men and boys attempting to flee and blocked humanitarian convoys bound for the safe haven. Mr. Jokić organized machinery and troops to dig mass graves for the people killed.
Announcing its judgment today, the ICTY appeals chamber said the trial chamber had erred in convicting Mr. Blagojević of complicity in genocide in 2005 because it was not clear beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew of the main perpetrators’ genocidal intent.
The ICTY has now rendered final judgments against six persons in connection with the crimes committed at Srebrenica, one of the most notorious events of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. A trial against seven accused continues, while three other accused persons are in a pre-trial phase and one case has been referred to the courts of Bosnia and Herzegovina for trial.
Six men remain as fugitives, including the former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadžić, Bosnian Serb army leader Ratko Mladić and the senior army officer Zdravko Tolimir.