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UN war crimes - reduces jail term of Bosnian Serb

UN war crimes tribunal reduces jail term of Bosnian Serb camp commander

The former commander of a Bosnian Serb detention camp who personally tortured inmates during the Balkans conflict in the 1990s will serve a 20-year jail term after the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia reduced his sentence today by three years.

The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ruled that the trial chamber had erred when it sentenced Dragan Nikolic to 23 years' jail because it gave too much weight to the possibility that he might receive an early release.

Summarizing the judgment, Judge Theodor Meron, who presided over Mr. Nikolic's appeal, said the trial chamber had "clearly – although not expressly – entered into a calculation to reflect the practice of the International Tribunal of granting early release after the convicted person has served two-thirds of his sentence."

Four of the five judges hearing Mr. Nikolic's appeal in The Hague – Judge Meron, Judge Fausto Pocar, Judge Mehmet Güney and Judge Inés Mónica Weinberg de Roca – upheld this ground. Judge Mohamed Shahabuddeen dissented. All other grounds of appeal were dismissed.

Under a plea bargain agreement with prosecutors in 2003, Mr. Nikolic had pleaded guilty to four charges of crimes against humanity relating to his role as commander of the Sušica camp, close to the town of Vlasenica in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 1992.

About 8,000 Muslim and other non-Serb men, women and children were confined to a hangar in the Sušica camp between May and October 1992 as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign in the area. Many were subsequently murdered.

The tribunal found that Mr. Nikolic beat many inmates with weapons such as iron bars, axe handles, rifle butts, metal knuckles, metal pipes and truncheons. He also removed or assisted in the removal of female inmates knowing that they were to be raped or sexually abused at nearby locations.

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