Appeals panel clears Yugoslav army chief of Serb atrocities
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — In a stunning reversal, U.N. appeals judges on Thursday acquitted the former chief of the Yugoslav National Army of aiding and abetting atrocities by rebel Serbs, including the Srebrenica massacre, by providing them with military aid during the Balkan wars.
Gen. Momcilo Perisic, a former close ally of ex-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, had been sentenced to 27 years in 2011 for his conviction of crimes including murder, inhumane acts and persecution. The judges ordered him freed immediately.
The judgment is a rare victory for Serbs at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, where most of the convicted suspects have been rebel Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia. It supported Belgrade's often-stated assertion that it did not deliberately assist in Bosnian Serb atrocities and underscores how hard it is for international courts to prosecute senior officials seen as pulling the strings but not acting directly.
The court's most ambitious attempt to link Belgrade to Balkan war atrocities ended inconclusively when Milosevic died of a heart attack in his cell in The Hague in 2006 before a verdict could be reached in his trial for fomenting violence throughout the region as the former Yugoslavia crumbled.
While linking senior officials in one country to crimes by rebels in another is difficult, it can be done.
Another high-profile case played out in a different Hague courtroom. Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, was convicted of aiding and abetting rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone during that African nation's brutal civil war. Taylor has appealed his conviction and 50-year sentence.
Perisic, wearing a dark suit and tie, looked down and raised his eyebrows as Presiding Judge Theodor Meron said his convictions were being overturned in a 4-1 ruling by the five-judge appeals panel.
His acquittal on appeal is final and cannot be further appealed.
It has long been known that Belgrade provided arms and other equipment to Bosnian Serb forces, but Meron said the aid was for the Bosnian Serb “war effort” and prosecutors failed to prove it was given with the “specific intent” for forces led by Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic to commit crimes.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Credible probe sought in downing of Malaysian jet
- Baghdad bombings kill 27; Christians flee Mosul under threat of death
- Ukraine rebel leader admits they had BUK
- China’s role in Afghanistan called mainly commercial
- Afghan officer sentenced to death in photographer’s killing
- Junta gets expanse of powers in document
- Acetaminophen no better for back pain than placebo, researchers report
- U.S. casts blame on Russia for downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17
- Russia says it will block 13 Americans, including lawmaker, from entering country
- Ban of flights to and from Israel feared to bolster Hamas
- 2 Ukrainian military fighter jets shot down