Bosnia to retry three war crimes convicts after European court ruling

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 09, 2013 11:14 AM
Bosnia to retry three war crimes convicts after European court ruling

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnia's war crimes court has ordered retrials for three convicted men, including an Iraqi-born Islamic militant, after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Bosnian legal procedures had violated their rights.

The decisions related to two separate cases and could set a precedent for more retrials in the Balkan country, the site of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War Two.

The Strasbourg-based ECHR ruled in July in favor of two men who had appealed against their prison terms for crimes committed in Bosnia's 1992-95 war. Bosnia's war crimes court in the capital Sarajevo acted on the ruling this month and extended the retrial decision to a third convicted man.

The two men, a Bosnian Serb and Iraqi-born Abduladhim Maktouf, complained that they had been tried under a more stringent criminal code than the one that was in force when the crimes were committed.

The Sarajevo court on Wednesday ordered a retrial for Maktouf, whose five-year sentence for atrocities against Croat civilians in central Bosnia in 1993 was upheld on appeal in 2006. Maktouf fought on the side of Bosnian Muslim forces during the war.

"Bearing in mind that the ECHR's ruling from July 18 found the violation of ... human rights in the case of convicted Abduladhim Maktouf, ... the court found that conditions for a retrial have been fulfilled," the court said in a statement.

Last week, the Sarajevo court ordered a retrial for Bosnian Serb Goran Damjanovic, sentenced to 11 years in 2007 for war crimes against Bosnian Muslim civilians in Sarajevo in 1992.

It also ordered a retrial for another Bosnian Serb who was jailed along with Damjanovic but filed no appeal to Strasbourg.

The three were tried under a criminal code that took force in 2003, when the war crimes court was set up, and not under the 1976 code that was still in effect during the 1990s.

The Strasbourg court said Damjanovic and Maktouf could have received lighter sentences if the 1976 code, which Bosnia inherited from when it was part of federal Yugoslavia, had been applied. It concluded that "they had not been afforded effective safeguards against the imposition of a heavier penalty".

(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Mark Heinrich)