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.


Strugar (IT-01-42) “Dubrovnik

Trial Judgment: 31 January 2005; Appeal Judgment: 17 July 2008

Pavle Strugar, commander of the JNA in the campaign against Dubrovnik, stood trial for allegedly having ordered or otherwise aided and abetted, or knew or had reason to know that forces under his command participated in the unlawful artillery and mortar shelling of the Old Town of Dubrovnik and the destruction or willful damage to dwellings and other buildings in the Old Town of Dubrovnik, which was in its entirety marked as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. The prosecution accused him of individual and superior criminal responsibility for violations of the laws or customs of war for murder; cruel treatment; attacks on civilians; devastation not justified by military necessity; unlawful attacks on civilian objects; and destruction or willful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion, charity, and education, the arts and sciences, historic monuments and works of art and science.

In 2005, the Trial Chamber convicted Strugar, on the basis of superior criminal responsibility, of violations of the laws or customs of war for unlawful attacks on civilians and destruction done to institutions and historic monuments; the Trial Chamber noted that testimony on both sides seemed to at times misrepresent the situation, either due to time passed since the events in questions, conflation of the attack with previous instances of shellings or a prior earthquake, an attempt by JNA actors to appear more innocent, or contrived testimony to make the attacks seem worse.

In 2008, the Appeals Chamber decided the prosecution’s and Strugar’s appeals; the Appeals Chamber found that the Trial Chamber erred in law when it applied the incorrect test for the required mens rea (mental state) to determine superior criminal responsibility when the Trial Chamber considered that the required mental state was actual knowledge that subordinates would commit crimes, when the proper test is whether Strugar had a reason to know that his subordinates would commit a crime and the Trial Chamber erred when it refused to enter cumulative conviction; the Appeals Chamber considered Strugar’s considerable health deterioration a mitigating factor in his sentencing. The Trial Chamber sentenced Strugar to eight years’ imprisonment, which was reduced to seven-and-a-half years’ imprisonment by the Appeals Chamber.