GENOCIDE – PROPER NAME FOR THE SREBRENICA MASSACRE
The Appeals Chamber of the International Tribunal in The Hague confirms the first-instance judgment from August 2001, qualifying the crimes committed in Srebrenica as genocide. The responsibility of General Krstic has been reduced from that of a "direct perpetrator" to an "aider and abettor of genocide," and his sentence has consequently been reduced from 46 to 35 years in prison.
Noting that "the law must not shy away from referring to the crime committed by its proper name," the Appeals Chamber of the International Tribunal in The Hague today decided unanimously that there is only one proper name for the massacre committed in 1995 in Srebrenica – genocide.
Ruling by a majority of votes (4:1) that General Radislav Krstic took part in the Srebrenica genocide as an "aider and abettor, and not as a principal perpetrator," the Appeals Chamber adjusted the sentence imposed by the Trial Chamber from 46 to 35 years.
This is the first final judgment in the Tribunal’s ten years of the existence finding that the most serious crime – genocide – was committed in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims," it states in the summary of the judgment read out in court by the Presiding Judge of the Appeals Chamber, Theodor Meron, "the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the forty thousand Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general… The Bosnian Serb forces were aware, when they embarked on this genocidal venture, that the harm they caused would continue to plague the Bosnian Muslims. The Appeals Chamber states unequivocally that the law condemns, in appropriate terms, the deep and lasting injury inflicted, and calls the massacre in Srebrenica by its proper name: genocide. Those responsible will bear this stigma, and it will serve as a warning for those who may in future contemplate the commission of such a heinous act."
Although it confirmed the finding of the first-instance judgment from August 2001 that genocide was committed in Srebrenica, the Appeals Chamber found that General Radislav Krstic was not its "principal perpetrator" and that he did not posses the "specific genocidal intent.” The principal perpetrators, the Appeals Chamber concluded, were General Ratko Mladic and some members of the VRS Main Staff, while General Krstic "aided and abetted in the planning, preparation and execution of genocide." That is why the Appeals Chamber set aside General Krstic’s conviction as a perpetrator of genocide. Instead, the Appeals Chamber found him guilty today of "aiding and abetting genocide." Likewise, his responsibility for murders, extermination and persecution has also been qualified as "aiding and abetting."
In keeping with this scaled-down level of responsibility, the punishment for General Krstic has been reduced from 46 to 35 years’ imprisonment.
Judge Mohamed Shahabuddeen, in his partially dissenting opinion attached to the judgment, disagrees with the conclusion reached by the majority that in the Srebrenica massacre, General Krstic acted merely as an "aider and abettor." In his view, there is no reason to change the Trial Chamber’s finding that he was one of the "perpetrators" sharing the "genocidal intent" of Mladic and the other participants in the joint criminal enterprise.
Despite his dissent in the matter of Krstic's responsibility, Judge Shahabuddeen agrees with the other members of the Appeals Chamber regarding the punishment imposed on Krstic today because of a number of mitigating circumstances.
General Krstic has been in the UN Detention Unit since December 1998 and will remain there until the formalities required for his transfer to a different prison are complete. He will go to a prison in one of the UN member states that has signed an agreement with the Tribunal on the service of sentences.