After the Appeals Chamber determined that the degree of Mitar Vasiljevic’s responsibility for the shooting of Bosniaks near Visegrad is less than the Trial Chamber determined in its first-instance judgment, it commuted his prison sentence.

Mitar Vasiljevic in the courtroomMitar Vasiljevic in the courtroom

The sentence for Mitar Vasiljevic was reduced from 20 to 15 years after the Appeals Chamber determined that his role in the shooting of seven Bosniaks near Visegrad was less than the first-instance judgment found.

The judgment of the Appeals Chamber was made public today and Theodor Meron, President of the Tribunal and Presiding Judge of the Appeals Chamber, read out its summary in court.

In the first-instance judgment of November 2002, Vasiljevic was convicted as a "cp-perpetrator" in murder. However, the Appeals Chamber, having considered the accused’s appeal, concluded that his role amounted to "aiding and abetting" in murder, which incurs a lower degree of responsibility. On this basis, it commuted his sentence, reducing it by a quarter.

Vasiljevic confirmed himself that on 7 June 1992, he was present when the captive Bosniaks were shot on the banks of the Drina River near Visegrad. Five men were killed and two survived by pretending they were dead. However, in his appeal, he claimed he was there only as an observer and that he did not even carry a rifle on that occasion. The Appeals Chamber rejected his claim, finding that there is persuasive evidence that Vasiljevic pointed his gun at the prisoners, preventing them from escaping. On the other hand, the defence argument that there is no evidence of Vasiljevic's "criminal intent" was accepted. The Appeals Chamber found that up until the very last moment before the Bosniaks were shot to death, Vasiljevic did not know what Milan Lukic – who has also been accused of crimes committed in Visegrad and who is still at large – and his two accomplices would do with the prisoners. It also found that Vasiljevic "could not have influenced" Lukic.

Vasiljevic was charged in the indictment with aiding Lukic and others in the killing of at least 65 Bosniak civilians, mostly women and children, who were shut into an abandoned house on Pionirska Street in Visegrad and burned alive. The Trial Chamber, however, acquitted Vasiljevic on this count. It accepted his alibi that he was in the hospital at the time of the crime. The prosecution did not appeal the judgment of the Trial Chamber.

Vasiljevic will remain in the UN Detention Unit until it is determined where he will serve the rest of his sentence. Credit will be given for the four years he has spent in the Detention Unit.

Mitar Vasiljevic in the courtroom
Theodor Meron, president of the Tribunal