Thu, Oct 18, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Court upholds war crimes acquittal of Bosnia's Halilovic


Appeals judges at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal on Tuesday upheld the acquittal of a former Bosnian Muslim army commander over atrocities in the 1992 to 1995 Bosnian War.

Sefer Halilovic, former Deputy Commander and Chief of Main Staff of the Muslim-dominated Bosnian Army, was cleared in November 2005 of a single war crimes charge linked to the murder of Bosnian Croat civilians in two villages in 1993.

A five-judge appeals panel at the UN court said prosecutors failed to raise any arguments to overturn the original verdict.

The charge against Halilovic was based on the theory of command responsibility -- that he was in control of troops responsible for the murders but failed to prevent or punish the crimes.

Trial judges ruled in 2005 that prosecutors failed to establish Halilovic was in effective command and the appeals judges upheld that finding.

"The prosecution failed to show that no reasonable trier of fact could have reached the conclusion that Sefer Halilovic did not have the required degree of `effective control' over the perpetrators ... to establish his superior responsibility," presiding Judge Fausto Pocar said.

Halilovic traveled to The Hague and was in court for Tuesday's ruling. He showed no emotion when the panel upheld his acquittal but kissed and hugged supporters outside the courtroom after the hearing. He made no immediate comment.

Prosecutors originally argued that Halilovic controlled troops who murdered civilians in the villages of Grabovica and Uzdol, which were occupied by Muslim forces seeking to end a blockade by Bosnian Croats of the city of Mostar in September 1993.

The three-judge trial panel said it was proven that women, children and innocent civilians had been murdered, but that prosecutors had failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that Halilovic was in control of forces that committed the war crimes.

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