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Europe rights court upholds conviction of Croatia war criminal

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] upheld the conviction [judgment] of former Croatian army commander Fred Margus on Wednesday. Margus challenged his 2007 conviction [Jutarnjilist report] for war crimes against civilians during the 1990s Yugoslav wars [JURIST news archive]. Charges initially brought against Margus were terminated in 1997 under the General Amnesty Act [PDF], which granted amnesty from criminal prosecution "perpetrators of criminal acts" who committed their crimes during the Yugoslav wars. Margus claimed that his 2007 trial violated his rights to a fair trial and to not be tried twice, protected by the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. The ECHR ruled that there were no ascertainable facts to justify doubts regarding the impartiality of Margus's trial, and that discontinuance of a trial by a prosecutor does not amount to a conviction or acquittal, so he has not been tried twice for the same crime. The ECHR expressed particular concern [press release, PDF] over the growing trend in international law of granting amnesty in spite of grave breaches of human rights, and applauded Croatian authorities for their indictment and conviction of Margus.

Investigations of war crimes related to the Yugoslav wars are still ongoing and suspects are still being arrested and prosecuted. In March, Croatia, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website], accused Serbia of genocide [JURIST report] in the 1990s. In January the appeals chamber for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] upheld [JURIST report] the criminal convictions of four Serbian senior officials stemming from the Bosnian Civil War [JURIST news archive]. Last September the ICTY [JURIST backgrounder] allowed Momcilo Krajisnik [JURIST news archive], the former speaker for the Bosnian Serb parliament, to return to Bosnia after being released from prison [JURIST report]. The ICTY was created [text, PDF] in 1993 by UN Resolution 827 to adjudicate the alleged war crimes perpetrated in the region of the former Yugoslavia since 1991. The ICTY's term of prosecution has been extended until December 2014. Since its inception the ICTY has convicted numerous war criminals for atrocities committed in the widespread violence of the Balkan region. The tribunal has been working through an immense caseload for the past 20 years and has recently delegated much of the war crime adjudication to the courts of individual Balkan nations.

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