Appeals Ruling on Lukic Cousins This Summer
The appeals judgement for convicted Bosnian Serb war criminals Milan and Sredoje Lukic will be delivered prior to the Hague tribunal’s summer recess, the bench announced this week during a status conference.
Milan Lukic, a former reserve policeman, was found guilty in July 2009 of personally killing at least 132 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) civilians in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad during the summer of 1992. More than 100 of these victims were confined inside two barricaded houses and burned alive.
He was also convicted of abusing detainees in the Uzamnica prison camp and killing 12 Bosniak men by the banks of the Drina river. Judges found that not enough evidence was presented during the trial to substantiate the claim that he was a paramilitary commander.
Milan Lukic was sentenced to life in prison.
His cousin Sredoje Lukic, a former police officer, was found guilty of aiding and abetting murder in one of the house burnings, and of mistreated detainees at the Uzamnica camp. He was given a 30-year prison sentence.
“The perpetration by Milan Lukic and Sredoje Lukic of crimes in this case is characterised by a vicious and callous disregard for human life,” judges said in the 2009 verdict. The two house burnings, they said, “exemplify the worst acts of inhumanity that a person may inflict upon others”.
At the September 2011 appeals hearing, lawyers for Milan Lukic argued that the case was essentially based on mistaken identity and faulty witness statements. Sredoje Lukic’s lawyers argued that he was not at the house burning on Pionirska street, and that even if he was, his actions did not legally constitute aiding and abetting. (For more, see Lukic Alleges Mistaken Identity.)
Milan Lukic was not present at this week’s status conference. The reason for his absence was not entirely clear.
His lawyer Tomislav Visnjic said his client had signed a waiver excusing himself because he had previously suffered “health problems” arising out of the way he was transferred between the United Nations Detention Unit and the courtroom.
“The Dutch police would make him wear glasses, or rather blindfold him, when transporting him here,” Visnjic said.
Tribunal spokesperson Nerma Jelacic told IWPR that transfers to and from the court is handled entirely by the Dutch authorities. who perform a “security threat assessment” prior to transporting a detainee. She said that they could decide to use “objects that restrict movement and sight”, but that these steps are not taken unless the detainee’s health has first been assessed.
Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.