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UN war crimes tribunal for Balkans grants temporary release to three men

UN war crimes tribunal for Balkans grants temporary release to three men

The United Nations war crimes tribunal set up to deal with the worst crimes committed during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s has granted temporary provisional release to three men either facing trial or mounting an appeal in separate cases.

The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), sitting in The Hague, yesterday ordered that Berislav Pušić be released from its custody, starting from the first feasible date and concluding on 2 May.

The reasons for the temporary release of Mr. Pušić, whose original request was granted by the ICTY in February but then stayed following a prosecution appeal, will be detailed later, the tribunal said.

Mr. Pušić and five other men – all senior figures in the Bosnian Croat wartime entity known as Herceg-Bosna – are currently jointly on trial in what is known as the ‘Prlic and others’ case, charged with committing war crimes in 1992 and 1993 against Bosnian Muslims and other non-Croats in south-western and central Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The many charges include murder rape, unlawful deportation, imprisonment, cruel treatment, unlawful labour, the wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, and persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Lazarević, a former high-ranking official in the Yugoslav Army during the war in Kosovo in 1999, was today granted provisional release on humanitarian grounds from 25 April to 1 May. He will be in Serbia for the duration of the period under strictly controlled conditions, including 24-hour surveillance.

Mr. Lazarević and five others are on trial for an alleged campaign of terror and violence directed against Kosovo Albanians and other non-Serbs living in Kosovo in 1999, with the charges including murder, persecution, deportation and forcible transfer of civilians.

Also today, the ICTY appeals chamber granted provisional release to Pavle Strugar, who has filed an appeal against his conviction for attacks on civilians and the destruction or wilful damage of the Old Town of the historic city of Dubrovnik during the war. He is to be released no later than 17 April for a period of no more than six days.

Mr. Strugar, a former commander in the Yugoslav Army, is currently serving an eight-year jail term for his role in the military campaign against Dubrovnik. But both he and prosecutors have appealed, and a hearing is scheduled for 23 April.