The ICTY Appeals Chamber issued a decision upholding the convictions of MRKŠIĆ and ŠLJIVANČANIN for the torture and killings of Croat and other non-Serb prisoners of war taken from the Vukovar hospital and ultimately buried in a mass grave at Ovčara. In addition to upholding the convictions, the Appeals Chamber also increased the sentence of ŠLJIVANČANIN from five years to seventeen years because of the seriousness of his involvement. At the time of the event in 1991, ŠLJIVANČANIN was a major in the JNA and was in charge of removing the prisoners from the hospital. Under the court’s analysis, he had a duty under Geneva III to ensure the safety of the prisoners until they were released or repatriated. Instead, following orders ŠLJIVANČANIN withdrew JNA forces, despite knowing the prisoners were being beaten and tortured and ultimately left their fate in the hands of a paramilitary group, the members of which killed and buried 200 of the prisoners. The Appeals Chamber ruled that despite the fact ŠLJIVANČANIN had orders to withdraw, international humanitarian law required him to ensure the safety of the prisoners.

In an interesting part of the opinion, the Appeals Chamber overruled the portion of the Trial Chamber’s finding that in order to establish crimes against humanity, the victims must be civilians. The Appeals Chamber ruled that the chapeau for crimes against humanity only required the attack be aimed at civilians. It did not require all victims to be civilians. Ultimately, in the case at hand it did not matter, as the Appeals Chamber found that the Prosecution had not proven it was the defendants’ intention to attack civilians.

In other news last week, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, created by the U.N. Security Council for the investigation of the killing of Rafik Harari in Lebanon released the last four suspects stating there was insufficient evidence to hold them further. Altogether nine individuals had been arrested and detained in connection with Harari’s death. Five of the suspects were released when the tribunal opened, leaving the last four, all pro-Syrian generals, in custody. In total, the defendants had been in detention for 44 months. It is not clear how the release of all suspects will impact the ability of the tribunal to move forward.

Advertisements

The prosecution of  Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, in the Special Court of Sierra Leone, sitting in special session at the Hague, came to a conclusion in February. Since that time the court has been weighing defense motions for an acquittal alleging that the prosecutor’s evidence failed to establish Mr. Taylor had committed war crimes or crimes against humanity. On Monday, the court ruled in strong language  it “wholly” rejected the motion for acquittal. The trial has been set to resume on June 29th and it is expected that the defense will call Mr. Taylor as its first witness. A recent editorial on allafrica.com questioned why the Blaise Campoare, current president of Burkina Faso was not  also on trial. The writer noted that it was publicly know that Campoare supported Taylor during the civil war in Liberia and helped finance his activities in Sierra Leone. That question will remain for another day. For now, Mr. Taylor must continue to wait for his fate to play out in court.