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Acquittal of Bosnian Muslim ex-army commander upheld by UN tribunal

Acquittal of Bosnian Muslim ex-army commander upheld by UN tribunal

The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia today upheld the acquittal of a former deputy army commander for the Bosnian Muslim forces during the Balkan wars on charges related to a massacre of 13 Bosnian Croat civilians in September 1993.

The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), sitting in The Hague, found that the trial chamber was correct in November 2005 to acquit Sefer Halilović.

Mr. Halilović, 55, had pleaded not guilty to the charge of command responsibility in the murders committed by Bosnian Muslim troops in the village of Grabovica, about 30 kilometres north of Mostar, in Bosnia and Herzegovina in September 1993.

He served as chief of the main staff of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time, and prosecutors alleged that he was the commander of a military operation known as Neretva-93 that led to the killings in Grabovica by troops billeted in the village.

But the appeals chamber said prosecutors had failed to show that it was not reasonable of the trial chamber to find that Mr. Halilović did not have the required degree of “effective control” over the troops to establish his superior responsibility under the law.

Meanwhile, the ICTY’s Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte addressed the European Union’s General Affairs and External Relations Council yesterday, saying that although Serbia has provided some required documents and archives, its overall cooperation does not match its stated commitments to the Tribunal.

Full access to some crucial archives has been denied so far, while a number of important documents have not yet been provided, she said.

She also criticized Serbia’s efforts to secure the arrest and extradition of the four remaining fugitives from the ICTY: Ratko Mladić, Radovan Karadžić, Goran Hadžić and Stojan Župljanin.

“I confirm that the situation today is better than it was a year ago,” Ms. Del Ponte said. “However, cooperation is still too slow and not yet sufficient. The fact that Ratko Mladić is still at large after all the promises and declarations that have been made over the years clearly demonstrates that fact.”

Mr. Karadžić, 62, the former Bosnian Serb president, and Mr. Mladić, 65, the former military chief, each face numerous charges, including genocide, extermination, murder, persecutions, deportation, taking of hostages and inflicting terror on civilians.

Mr. Hadžić, 49, is charged with murder, persecutions, torture, cruel treatment and other war crimes and crimes against humanity related to his role as president of a self-proclaimed breakaway state of rebel Serbs in southern Croatia during the early 1990s.

Mr. Župljanin, 56, has been indicted on many counts, including murder, torture, forcible transfers and the wanton destruction of towns and villages. He served in the senior leadership in the Autonomous Region of Krajina, part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, an area that became notorious for its treatment of non-Serbs.