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ICTY appeals court affirms conviction of former Serb republic leader

[JURIST] The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] Wednesday affirmed [press release] the 2007 conviction [judgment summary; JURIST report] of Milan Martic [ICTY case backgrounder, PDF; BBC profile] on 16 counts of crimes against humanity and violations of laws and customs of war, including persecutions, murder, torture, deportation, attacks on civilians, and wanton destruction of civilian areas. The Appeals Chamber reversed Martic's convictions on some specific alleged crimes. Martic, the former president of the breakaway Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK) in Croatia [JURIST news archive], had been previously sentenced to 35 years in prison [press release] for the extermination of hundreds of Croat, Muslim and other non-Serb civilians between 1991 and 1995. Both parties had appealed from the first judgment. The Appeals Chamber rejected Martic's argument that the Trial Chamber failed to take into account certain contextual aspects, particularly the aims of Serb leadership, and concluded that Martic's sentence should be upheld despite the overturning of some convictions. In addition, the Appeals Chamber sustained the prosecution's lone ground for appeal, agreeing that soldiers who were incapable of taking part in hostilities could still be victims of war crimes. BBC News has more.

Martic was originally indicted [text] in July 1995. After several years as a fugitive, he surrendered to the Hague-based tribunal in 2002. His trial began [JURIST report] in December 2005 and ended in January 2007. In the original conviction, the ICTY Trial Chamber found that Martic exercised "absolute authority" over the RSK's Interior Ministry and security forces, and failed to prevent or punish war crime violations, and even encouraged the "widespread and systematic" persecution of Croatian non-Serbs. Martic was also found to be responsible for ordering an indiscriminate rocket attack on the Croatian capital of Zagreb, which killed seven civilians and injured at least 200 people.

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