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: 27 September 2007; Appeal Judgment: 5 May 2009
Mile Mrkšić, Miroslav Radić, and Veselin Šljivančanin, officers in the JNA, stood trial for allegedly having planned, instigated, ordered, committed or aided and abetted in a joint criminal enterprise that engaged in crimes against non-Serbs in and around Vukovar, including evacuating non-Serbs from the Vukovar hospital while knowing or having reason to know that the detainees would be subject to further persecution or murder; the detention of non-Serbs in barracks; and preventing international observers from reaching Vukovar Hospital where they could observe the evacuation. The prosecution accused them, on the basis of individual and superior criminal responsibility and membership in a joint criminal enterprise, with crimes against humanity for persecutions, extermination, murder, torture, and inhumane acts; and violations of the laws and customs of war for murder, torture, and cruel treatment.
In 2007, the Trial Chamber acquitted Radić and convicted Mrkšić of individual criminal responsibility for violations of the laws and customs of war for murder, torture, and cruel treatment and Šljivančanin of individual criminal responsibility violations of the laws and customs of war for torture; the Trial Chamber found that while it could find that on the orders of Mrkšić, which were implemented by Šljivančanin, POWs were taken from the Vukovar Hospital, it was only later that Mrkšić changed his decision to leave prisoners in the custody of the Territorial Defence, who were under Mrkšić’s command and perpetuated the cruel treatment.
In 2009, the Appeals Chamber dismissed Mrkšić and Šljivančanin’s appeals, and decided the prosecution’s appeals; the Appeals Chamber found that the Trial Chamber erred when it failed to find that Šljivančanin knew, at the time of his visit to Ovčara, that the TOs and paramilitaries would likely kill the prisoners, and that the Trial Chamber erred when it found that Šljivančanin’s duty to protect the prisoners ended upon Mrkšić’s order to withdraw; the Appeals Chamber quashed Šljivančanin’s prior acquittal for murder as a violation of the laws or customs of war, found him guilty, and quashed his previous sentence. The Trial Chamber sentenced Mrkšić to 20 years’ imprisonment and Šljivančanin to five years’ imprisonment; the Appeals Chamber upheld Mrkšić’s sentence and imposed a new sentence for Šljivančanin for 17 years’ imprisonment.