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UN war crimes court: Bosnian Croat gets 20 years

UN war crimes court for former Yugoslavia sentences Bosnian Croat to 20 years

The United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) today sentenced Bosnian Croat Miroslav Bralo to 20 years’ imprisonment for his role in the multiple murder, rape, torture, unlawful confinement and inhumane treatment of Bosnian Muslim civilians in 1993.

Mr. Bralo, a former member of the anti-terrorist platoon of the 4th Military Police Battalion of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) known as the “Jokers,” pleaded guilty in July to a broad range of war crimes committed in and around the central Bosnian villages of Ahmici and Nadioci.

In its summary of the judgment, read out at the Hague-based court, the ICTY called the crimes appalling. Addressing Mr. Bralo, the court said, “There can be no excuse or justification for your actions, nor can your reasons for abusing so many people be fathomed.”

In weighing the gravity of the crimes against mitigating circumstances, the three judges of the Trial Chamber considered the fact that Mr. Bralo pleaded guilty to his crimes. “Such a guilty plea is a profound acknowledgement of personal responsibility and provides a much greater contribution to the reconciliation of people in the affected region than a finding of guilt after a trial in which the accused consistently denies his crimes,” the court observed. “It also spares vulnerable victims and witnesses from having to testify at trial, and furthers the judicial process of the Tribunal.”

Furthermore, the Trial Chamber noted that Miroslav Bralo had submitted evidence of his remorse, including his written and oral statements and it recognized “his attempts to assist in the location and exhumation of the bodies of those who were killed….in the course of the attack on Ahmici.”

In passing sentence, the Trial Chamber stated that without the mitigating circumstances outlined in the judgement, the number of years’ imprisonment would have been considerably higher than the 20 year sentence imposed. In its summary, the Trial Chamber noted that it was in particular Miroslav Bralo’s guilty plea prior to trial, his remorse and steps toward rehabilitation which led it to impose a lower sentence.

Miroslav Bralo will remain in the custody of the Tribunal until he is transferred to a State to serve his sentence.

Since its inception in 1993, the Tribunal has charged 161 persons for war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia. To date, proceedings against 88 persons have concluded. Seven indicted persons remain at large.

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