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War crimes appeal begins for former Bosnia president

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Monday began hearing an appeal [text, PDF; BIRN report] by Jadranko Prlic, Prime Minister of the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia, an unrecognized entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina, and five of his former senior military officials. The six were sentenced [JURIST report] in May 2013 for crimes against humanity, violations of the laws or customs of war, and breaches of the Geneva Conventions [text, PDF] during the 1992-95 Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict. The six deny that there was a criminal enterprise to systematically remove Bosniaks from Bosnia and are seeking a retrial or to have their sentences reduced. According to a statement [press release] released by ICTY, "the Prlic et al. trial was one of the tribunal's largest and most complicated," adding that a total of 326 witnesses appeared over 465 trial days. The hearing is expected to last seven days. A ruling is expected by November.

The ICTY convicted [press release] the six for persecuting, expelling and murdering Bosniaks during the war. The sentences, ranging from 10 to 25 years, were handed down by a three-judge panel for crimes including murder, rape, illegal expulsion and torture. The longest sentence of 25 years was given to Jadranko Prlic [case materials], former leader of the Croatian Community. The other high-ranking political or military figures convicted included Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentic Coric and Berislav Pusic. The ruling also specifically named the late president of the Republic of Croatia Franjo Tudjman [BBC profile] and his former defense minister Gojko Susak as key participants in the crimes against humanity. In the ruling, Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti stated that the torture and murder of Bosniaks "were not the random acts of a few unruly soldiers, but part of a plan to permanently remove Muslims from territory claimed by Bosnian Croats." The trial against the six accused began [JURIST report] in April 2006. Since its establishment in 1993, the ICTY has indicted more than 161 people for violations of humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001. The Bosnian war left approximately 100,000 people dead and about 2.2 million homeless.

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