[JURIST] Ex-Yugoslav army chief Momcilo Perisic [ICTY profile, PDF; JURIST news archive] began his appeal [redacted brief, PDF] before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Tuesday in an attempt to overturn his conviction [JURIST report] on crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the wars in Bosnia and Croatia. Perisic, the only Yugoslav officer to be convicted, was sentenced to 27 years in prison and appealed the conviction in April. Perisic began his appeal by denouncing the decision as unprecedented [Reuters report], stating that never before has a Chief of Staff been convicted for crimes committed by opposing forces. In his brief, Perisic made a similar argument:
Momcilo Perisic’s case is the only case before this Tribunal of a senior officer of one army being found guilty for crimes committed by members of a distinct army in a foreign country. It highlights the importance of a fundamental principle of national and international criminal law—that individual criminal liability is based on personal guilt, not state responsibility. This judgement ignores the reality that relations between states are often reinforced by the provision of significant military aid, in finding Perisic’s provision of assistance renders him individually criminally responsible for aiding and abetting the crimes committed during the war. Many foreign armies are dependent, to various degrees, upon such assistance to function. […] If Perisic’s convictions are sustained, it will have a chilling effect on international relations as under the Majority’s reasoning a commander of any army can be found responsible for crimes committed by any troops of any nation simply by giving logistical or technical assistance to prosecute a war. The outcome of this appeal is not only of great importance to Perisic but also to political and military leaders throughout the world.
Perisic is seeking a full acquittal.
Perisic was found guilty of 12 out of 13 charges, including aiding and abetting murders occurring during the Srebrenica massacre [JURIST news archive], inhumane acts, attacks on civilians, unjust persecutions and having knowingly supplied “extensive logistical assistance” to the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) and the Army of Serbian Krajina (SVK) that would be used to torture and kill hundreds of Muslim civilians. He was also found guilty on the basis of command responsibility for the inhumane acts of his officers and subsequently failing to punish them. In March UN prosecutors demanded that Perisic receive a life sentence [JURIST report] for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against Bosnian Muslims in the early 1990s. Perisic’s trial began [JURIST report] in October 2008, and closing arguments concluded at the end of March. ICTY Prosecutor Mark Harmon said Perisic was one of the “principal collaborators” of late Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive], claiming in his opening statement that Perisic “created an environment of impunity, wherein his subordinates were encouraged and did persist to commit crimes, knowing there would be no consequences.” Perisic turned himself in to the UN in 2005, surrendering to officials [JURIST report] from the ICTY.