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The Prosecutor v. Popović et al

Court International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Trial Chamber II, The Netherlands
Case number IT-05-88-T
Decision title Judgment (Public Redacted)
Decision date 10 June 2010
  • The Prosecutor
  • Vujadin Popović
  • Ljubiša Beara
  • Drago Nikolić
  • Ljubomir Borovčanin
  • Radivoje Miletić
  • Milan Gvero
  • Vinko Pandurević
Categories Conspiracy to commit genocide, Crimes against humanity, Genocide, War crimes
Keywords crimes against humanity, extermination, Forcible transfer, genocide, intent to destroy, Murder, persecution, Srebrenica, war crimes
Other countries involved
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
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The Bosnian Serb Forces conducted a campaign of attacks against the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica and Žepa between March and September 1995. 

After the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995, the men were separated from the women, children and elderly, and transported to locations where they were detained and killed. 

The Trial Chamber found that these acts constituted genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Chamber found that there were two separate criminal plans, the first of which aimed to murder the Bosnian Muslim men, and the second to remove the civilians from Srebrenica and Žepa. 

For their acts and omissions, the seven accused were found guilty on several counts. The Chamber found all of the accused responsible on counts of crimes against humanity. Popović, Beara, Nikolić, and Borovčanin were found guilty for violations of the laws or customs of war, and with the exception of Borovčanin, they were also found guilty on charges of genocide. 

While Popović and Beara received a punishment of life imprisonment, the rest received sentences between 5 and 35 years of imprisonment.

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Procedural history

The operative indictment was issued on 4 August 2006. The Trial commenced on 21 August 2006 and closing arguments were heard between 2 and 15 September 2009.

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Related developments

Both the Prosecution and the Defence teams of all but Borovčanin filed their appeals briefs between April and August 2011.

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Legally relevant facts

In March 1995, the then President of the Republika Srpska and Supreme Commander of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) Karadžić outlined an attack plan against the civilians of Srebrenica and Žepa (para. 199). On 6 July the VRS initiated the attacks by shelling, leading to the fall of Srebrenica by 11 July (paras. 242, 249 and 260). 

Thousands of Bosnian Muslims fled Srebrenica, mostly heading towards the DutchBat Compound in Potočari (para. 263 et seq). Some of the Bosnian Muslim men fled to the valleys of Srebrenica forming a column (para. 267 et seq). 

The VRS separated the Bosnian Muslim men in Potočari from the women, children and the elderly (paras. 316 and 319) and transported them by buses to the town of Bratunac (para. 338), and later to Zvornik where they were detained in an atmosphere of terror amidst beatings and executions. Later they were transported to several nearby locations where they were killed (para. 473 et seq). 

Meanwhile, the VRS targeted Žepa with the aim to remove the population (para. 665 et seq). Between 26 and 27 July about 5,000 Bosnian Muslims were transported out of Žepa (para. 719).

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Core legal questions

  • Have the charged crimes been committed in Srebrenica and Žepa?
  • Can the seven accused be held individually responsible for these crimes?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Articles 3 (War Crimes), 4 (Genocide), Article 5 (Crimes Against Humanity), 7(1) (Individual Criminal Responsibility) and 7(3)(Command Responsibility) of the ICTY Statute.

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Court's holding and analysis

The Trial Chamber held that there were two joint criminal enterprises (JCE); one which aimed to murder, and one which aimed to forcibly remove civilians from Srebrenica and Žepa. The Trial Chamber found that through their roles and engagement in the operations after the fall of Srebrenica, Popović, Beara and Nikolić participated in the JCE to murder the Bosnian Muslim men. There was insufficient evidence to prove that Borovčanin contributed to the JCE to murder. Furthermore, Popović was also considered to have participated in the JCE to forcibly remove Bosnian Muslim civilians from Srebrenica, while Miletić substantially contributed to it. Although the Chamber found that Gvero also made a significant contribution to the JCE to forcibly remove civilians, it was not foreseeable to him that they would be murdered later (para. 1089 et seq). 

The Chamber was also satisfied that Popović, Beara possessed the special genocidal intent to destroy a group (paras. 1180; 1317). Nikolić knew about the genocidal intent of the other perpetrators and substantially contributed to the commission of genocide (para. 1407). 

Pandurević was held responsible for his failure to prevent his subordinates from committing crimes and significantly contributing to the murder of the Bosnian Muslims (paras. 1991; 2066).

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited

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Related cases

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Additional materials

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