UN war crimes tribunal sentences two former senior Yugoslav officers

27 September 2007

Two former senior officers of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) were sentenced today by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for their roles in the executions of non-Serbs in Ovcara.

Two former senior officers of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) were sentenced today by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for their roles in the executions of non-Serbs in Ovcara.

Mile Mrkšic was sentenced to prison for 20 years for aiding and abetting the murder, torture and cruel treatment of 194 non-Serb prisoners of war taken from a hospital in Vukovar after the Croatian city fell to JNA and Serb paramilitary forces in November 1991.

As Army colonel, he commanded all Serb forces – including JNA, Territorial Defence and paramilitary forces – in the Vukovar area at the time of the crimes.

Convicted of aiding and abetting the cruel treatment of prisoners, Veselin Šljivancanin, who served as a JNA major and headed the security organ of both the Guard’s Motorized Brigade and Operational Group South at the time, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Meanwhile, a third JNA member who was indicted along with Mr. Mrkšic and Mr. Šljivancanin, Miroslav Radic, was acquitted of all charges.

According to the indictment, in late November 1991 – following the brutal siege and sustained artillery attack on Vukovar – JNA and Serb paramilitary forces under the command or supervision of Mrkšic, Radic and Šljivancanin, removed about 260 non-Serb individuals from the Vukovar Hospital where they had sought refuge. The prisoners were transported to a farm building in Ovcara, where they were beaten, tortured and eventually murdered.

The three men were charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes for their alleged participation in a joint criminal enterprise aiming to murder and mistreat prisoners, as well as their personal and command responsibility for the torture and executions.

The Tribunal’s Trial Chamber cited evidence from exhumations of the Ovcara mass grave and subsequent autopsies identifying 192 non-Serb victims named in the indictment.

The ICTY held its first hearing in November 1994, and since then, has indicted 161 persons and proceedings have been completed in the cases of 108 accused. No further indictments will be issued, and the Tribunal is scheduled to complete its mission by the end of 2010.