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: 26 February 2001; Appeal Judgment: 17 December 2004
Dario Kordić, the president of the HDZ-BiH and the Vice-President and a member of the presidency of the HZ-HB, and Mario Čerkez, Commander of the Vitez Brigade of the HVO before and during the HDZ-BiH/HVO takeover of the municipal functions within the municipality of Vitez, stood trial for allegedly having participated in, ordered, planned, and prepared the attacks and take-over of the municipalities in the Lašva Valley during the conflict between Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, and engaged in acts of persecution against Bosnian Muslims during the Ahmići massacre. The prosecution accused them, under theories of individual and superior criminal responsibility, of crimes against humanity for persecution, murder, inhumane acts, and imprisonment; violations of the laws or customs of war for unlawful attacks on civilians and civilian objects, murder, violence to life and person, cruel treatment, taking hostages, wanton destruction not justified by military necessity, plunder of private or public property, and destruction or willful damage to institutions dedicated to religion or education; and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions for willful killing, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury, inhuman treatment, unlawful confinement of civilians, taking civilians as hostages, and extensive destruction of property.
In 2001, the Trial Chamber convicted Kordić and Čerkez of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions for willful killing, inhuman treatment, and unlawful confinement of civilians; of crimes against humanity for persecution, murder, inhumane acts, and imprisonment; and of violations of the laws and customs of war for unlawful attacks on civilians and civilian objects, wanton destruction not justified by military necessity, plunder, and destruction or willful damage to institutions dedicated to religion or education; the Trial Chamber additionally convicted Čerkez of a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions for taking civilians as hostages.
In 2004, the Appeals Chamber decided Kordić’s and Čerkez’s appeals; the Appeals Chamber affirmed the Trial Chamber’s determination that there was an international armed conflict at the time in question between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina using the overall control test, of which the defendants’ actions as part of the HVO were a part; the Appeals Chamber acquitted Čerkez of all convictions except for crimes against humanity for persecution, imprisonment, and unlawful confinement of civilians, finding that the Trial Chamber erred when it considered that Čerkez had command over military police stationed in the Vitez Cinema and that he was only liable for the acts of the Viteška Brigade under the theory of superior criminal responsibility, and that there was no evidence that Čerkez knew of any criminal or persecutory plan by the HVO. The Trial Chamber sentenced Kordić to 25 years’ imprisonment and Čerkez to 15 years’ imprisonment; the Appeals Chamber affirmed Kordić’s sentence and reduced Čerkez’s sentence to 6 years’ imprisonment.