This case summary is part of a collection of summaries describing the cases before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). See the Online Resource Hub pages on the ICTY and International Criminal Law, and the table of ICTY case summaries for additional information.
Trial Judgment: 2 June 1999; Appeal Judgment: 24 March 2000
Zlatko Aleksovski, a commander of the prison facility at Kaonik used by the HVO to unlawfully detain Bosnian Muslims, stood trial for the alleged mistreatment of detainees under his command between January and May 1993; the alleged mistreatment included murder, intimidation, insufficient provisions of food and medical treatment, and the use of detainees as a human shields to ensure the surrender of Muslim villages. The prosecution accused Aleksovski of having individually and in concert with others planned, instigated, ordered, or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution of the unlawful treatment of Bosnian Muslim detainees in Lašva Valley, or in the alternative knew or had reason to know that subordinates had done so and failed to take accountability for grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions for inhuman treatment and willfully causing great suffering or serious injury, and for violations of the laws or customs of war for outrages upon the personal dignity.
In 1999, the Trial Chamber convicted Aleksovski of a violation of the laws and customs of war for outrages on personal dignity, finding that the acts caused serious humiliation or degradation to the victims; the Trial Chamber acquitted Aleksovski on charges of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions for inhuman treatment and willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, on the grounds that the majority of the Trial Chamber found that the majority of the Bosnian Muslims at the Kaonik prison at the relevant time were not protected persons within the meaning of Article 4 of the Fourth Geneva Convention because the actions were not one of an international armed conflict, as all the parties were the same nationality.
In 2000, the Appeals Chamber decided the prosecution’s appeal; it held that the Trial Chamber erred in its determination of whether there was an international armed conflict when it relied on nationality to determine if it was an international armed conflict, rather than using the “overall control” test, which considers whether the parties involved were effectively under the control of other States; under the “overall control” test, the Appeals Chamber found that the victims were “protected persons” within the meaning of Article 4 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, though the Appeals Chamber did not consider whether it should reverse the acquittals for grave breaches on these grounds. The Trial Chamber sentenced Aleksovski to two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment; the Appeals Chamber revised Aleksovski’s sentence to seven years’ imprisonment.