International House of Dan: February 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Milutinovic Cleared of Kosovo Crimes

"Will the Accused Milutinović please rise.

For all the reasons I have summarised, the Trial Chamber finds you, Milan Milutinović, to be NOT GUILTY, pursuant to Articles 7(1) and 7(3) of the Statute, of counts 1 to 5 of the Indictment. Pursuant to Rule 99(A) of the Rules, the Chamber orders that you be released from the United Nations Detention Unit immediately upon the completion of the necessary modalities, without prejudice to any further proceedings that may follow Trial Chamber III’s determination under the final paragraph of the Judgement in relation to the three outstanding crime sites in the Indictment."

A four-judge panel at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) cleared former Serb President Milan Milutinovic of all charges in the case of
Prosecutor v. Milan Milutinović, Nikola Šainović, Dragoljub Ojdanić, Nebojša Pavković, Vladimir Lazarević, and Sreten Lukić (IT-05-87). Of the five remaining co-defendants, Mssrs. Ojdanic and Lazarevic were found guilty on counts 1 and 2, not guilty on counts 3 through 5, and sentenced to 15 years in prison, and Mssrs. Sainovic, Pavkovic and Lukic were found guilty on all counts and sentences to 22 years.

In an unofficial summary of the judgment, the judges were not persuaded that Mr. Milutinovic had direct control over the Yugoslav Army (VJ), or that he had sufficient command authority after 23 March, 1999, the day before the NATO intervention. According to an unofficial ICTY press release:
"The Prosecution charged the six with crimes committed during a campaign of terror and violence directed against the ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo in early 1999. Each of the Accused was alleged to have participated in a joint criminal enterprise, the purpose of which was to modify the ethnic balance in Kosovo to ensure continued control by the Serbian authorities. The plan was to be executed by criminal means, including deportations, murders, forcible transfers and persecutions of Kosovo Albanians."

The judgment is the first by the ICTY for Serb crimes against Albanians in Kosovo. The ICTY website contains valuable background information on this, and the other cases before the ICTY, as well as video coverage of court proceedings.

The 68-page third amended indictment, from 2006, charged the Accused with Crimes Against Humanity under Counts 1) Deportation, 2) Other Inhumane Acts (Forcible Transfer), 3) Murder and 5) Persecution, and Violations of the Laws and Customs of War in Count 4) Murder.