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International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia: Final Trial Opens

(Oct. 19, 2012) On October 16, 2012, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) began its last trial. Goran Hadzic is the final defendant of 161 individuals tried by the Tribunal; he is accused of crimes against humanity and violating the law and customs of war. (Sarah Paulsworth, ICTY Opens Final War Crimes Trial, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Oct. 16, 2012); The Prosecutor v. Goran Hadzic, Case No. IT-04-75-PT (Mar. 22, 2012), ICTY website.)

Hadzic was born in Croatia, but is of Serbian descent and was a leader in the Serbian National Council, which is described in the case documents as a political forum. He was also the President of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina. The indictment, as revised in March 2012, alleges that Hadzic “planned, instigated, ordered, committed and/or abetted” a criminal enterprise from April 1991 through December 1995 that was designed to permanently and by forceful means remove the majority of the Croatian and other non-Serbian people from Croatia. (The Prosecutor v. Goran Hadzic, supra.) The indictment further alleges that he failed to take reasonable means to prevent his subordinates from committing crimes and encouraged persecutory policies, discriminatory violence, and other criminal acts. The crimes included killings, unlawful detentions, and forced labor, among other offenses, and were at times committed against civilian populations. (Id.)

The ICTY was the first war crimes tribunal created by the United Nations and the first to be established since the World War II war crimes tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo. (Paulsworth, supra.) According to its website, the ICTY is a “court of law dealing with war crimes that took place during the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990’s. Since its establishment in 1993 it has irreversibly changed the landscape of international humanitarian law and provided victims an opportunity to voice the horrors they witnessed and experienced.” (About the ICTY, ICTY website (last visited Oct. 18, 2012).)

In a related case before the ICTY, Radovan Karadzic began the presentation of his defense on October 16, 2012; he denies having committed the crimes of which he is accused, which include genocide, crimes against humanity, and murder. He is alleged to have taken part in the planning for the 1995 massacre in Srebenica, in which 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed. (Julia Zebley, Karadzic Opens Defense Before ICTY, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Oct. 17, 2012); Radovan Karadzic, Case Information Sheet (IT-95-5/18)ICTY website (last visited Oct. 18, 2012).)