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ICTY prosecutors appeal 'lenient' sentences in Vukovar massacre trial

[JURIST] Prosecutors for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Tuesday appealed the sentences [JURIST report] imposed on war crimes convicts Mile Mrksic and Veselin Sljivancanin [BBC profiles; ICTY case backgrounder], who were convicted in connection with the killings of over 200 Croatian prisoners of war near Vukovar [BBC backgrounder] in 1991. The tribunal found Mrksic guilty on three counts of war crimes [JURIST news archive] and sentenced him to 20 years in prison for his part in the massacre. Sljivancanin received a five-year sentence on aiding and abetting charges. The prosecutors appealed on the grounds that the sentences were grossly inadequate for the crimes committed by Mrksic and Sljivancanin considering the extreme suffering of the victims and the magnitude of the massacre. In addition, the prosecutors appealed the prisoners' acquittal on charges of crimes against humanity. Meanwhile, both Mrksic and Sljivancanin appealed the convictions, alleging that the evidence was insufficient to support the decisions against them.

ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte [official profile] had expressed immediate disapproval of the verdicts for being too lenient. Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader [official website] also criticized [JURIST report] the ICTY for the judgments, saying in a letter sent last month to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the ICTY failed to act in a "balanced and impartial way" and calling for a review of the court's judgments. This month, Sanader addressed [press release] the UN General Assembly, calling for justice for the Vukovar massacre. In addition, Croatian President Stipe Mesic, known to be a supporter of the ICTY, said that his own confidence in the ICTY has been eroded. In December 2006, the Serbian Supreme Court ordered a retrial in the case of 14 former members of Serb militias who were originally convicted [JURIST reports] of war crimes for their roles in the Vukovar massacre. The Serbian judicial proceedings, which opened in March 2004 [JURIST report], have been seen as a test of Serbia's domestic war crimes process. AP has more.

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