At the appellate hearing, Milan Lukic’s defense claimed that Lukic was a victim of ‘rumors’; the witnesses who identified him as the perpetrator of crimes in Visegrad were wrong. Lukic was sentenced to life imprisonment for the Visegrad crimes. The prosecution contends that the Trial Chamber ‘carefully considered and analyzed the identification evidence’ and made a correct decision

Milan Lukic in the courtroomMilan Lukic in the courtroom

‘Milan Lukic and others were notorious in Visegrad because they fought in the war and killed many Bosniaks in combat’, defense counsel Tomislav Visnjic said today, arguing that in conflicts like the one in Visegrad ‘individuals gain notoriety’ and ‘rumors spread like fire’. In such situations, ‘elements of truth are mixed up with lies and exaggerations creating an illusion that a person is present in places where they cannot possibly be’, the defense lawyer explained.

Milan Lukic was sentenced to life imprisonment. The judges found that Milan Lukic was directly responsible for two ‘living pyres’ in the Pionirska Street and in the Bikavac neighborhood. In June 1992, about 140 women, children and the elderly were burned alive in the two houses. Milan Lukic was also found guilty of the executions of Bosniaks on the Drina river bank and in front of the Varda factory, and for the murder of Hajra Koric. The second accused Sredoje Lukic was convicted of complicity in the burning of civilians in the Pionirska Street and the abuse of prisoners in the Uzamnica barracks.

According to the defense, Milan Lukic’s conviction ‘simply doesn’t stand’. Proper procedure was not followed in the identification of the accused and many witnesses misidentified Lukic, because their identification was based on his voice or after a long time.

In addition to appealing against the identification procedure, the defense urged the Appeals Chamber to reverse the Trial Chamber’s findings about Milan Lukic’s responsibility for extermination. According to Lukic’s lawyer Dragan Ivetic, two groups of 60 victims ‘are not a sufficient number to meet the standards of a mass crime defining extermination’.

The defense contends that Mitar Vasiljevic, convicted as an accomplice in the execution at the Drina river bank, had a motive to corroborate the evidence of survivors who ‘believed’ that Milan Lukic was among the perpetrators. When Vasiljevic testified about the incident, he wanted to play down his own responsibility, the defense argued. Because Vasiljevic was convinced Milan Lukic would never be arrested and transferred to The Hague, he tried to shift the blame on Lukic.

Responding to the defense arguments, the prosecution team dismissed the suggestion that Vasiljevic was not telling the truth because he was certain that Lukic wouldn’t end up before the court as a ‘mere speculation’. According to the prosecution, Lukic was not misidentified. In fact, the prosecution argued, the Trial Chamber didn’t rely solely on the identification of the accused in court in reaching its judgment. The judges ‘carefully assessed the identification evidence in their deliberations, analyzing the evidence for each incident separately’, the prosecutor said.

As regards the extermination charges, the prosecution admitted there were no clearly defined rules but international case law indicates that if 50 people have died in a single incident, this is sufficient to qualify the crime as extermination.

The defense of Sredoje Lukic, the second accused, will deliver its arguments in the afternoon.