UN genocide tribunal affirms life sentence of Serb paramilitary leader
The United Nations war crimes tribunal set up in the wake of the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s today reaffirmed the life sentence of a Serbian paramilitary leader, Milan Lukic, who was previously found guilty of inhumane acts including murder, cruel treatment and violations of the laws of war.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) dismissed all of Mr. Lukic’s eight grounds of appeal. The affirmation of Mr. Lukic’s sentence is the first time the Tribunal has upheld a sentence of life imprisonment, according to the court.
The ICTY is tasked by the Security Council with trying those responsible for the worst war crimes and other breaches of international humanitarian law committed during the various conflicts in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Since its inception 19 years ago, the Tribunal has indicted 161 persons.
Mr. Lukic had initially been convicted in relation to six distinct incidents. One of the most notorious ones was that known as the ‘Pionirska Street massacre,’ in which he was found responsible for the murders in 1992 of 59 Muslim women, children and elderly men by barricading them in one room of a house in the town of Višegrad, in south-eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, where a carpet had been treated with an accelerant and an explosive device was exploded, setting the house on fire. He was also found to have shot at people trying to escape from the burning house.
The appeals chamber of the Tribunal made small changes to two sub-grounds of appeal, which found that 53 – not 59 – people were killed in the ‘Pionirska Street massacre’ and that the involvement of some prosecution witnesses in the case had not been properly evaluated. However, the Tribunal found that these two adjustments did not impact the sentence.
The Tribunal also reduced the sentence of Sredoje Lukic from 30 to 27 years of imprisonment for crimes against humanity. The former Serb paramilitary leader had most of his 15 grounds of appeal dismissed by the Tribunal; his sentence was reduced by three years after the appeals chamber reversed his convictions for the beatings of detainees in the Uzamnica camp.