DRAGAN NIKOLIC’S SENTENCE REDUCED FROM 23 TO 20 YEARS
The Appeals Chamber has found that the only error the Trial Chamber made in its judgment was to try to ensure that the former commander of the Susica camp stays in prison for at least 15 years. The majority of the Appeals Chamber holds that “too much weight was attached to the possibility of an early release.” The Appeals Chamber noted that the Trial Chamber is “not bound by any agreement reached by the parties”
Dragan Nikolic - Jenki in the courtroom
The Appeals Chamber of the Tribunal in The Hague imposed a new sentence of 20 years in prison today on Dragan Nikolic. In December 2003 the Trial Chamber sentenced Nikolic to 23 years in prison.
The Appeals Chamber upheld only one of the seven grounds for appeal presented by Nikolic’s defense. In the opinion of the majority of the Appeals Chamber, the only error the Trial Chamber made in its judgment is that it wanted to ensure that the former commander of the Susica camp stays in prison for at least 15 years, considering the practice that the accused may apply for an early release after they have served two thirds of their sentences. The majority of the Appeals Chamber holds that by doing so, it “attached too much weight to the possibility of an early release,” which is an error that must result in a reduction of the sentence. The judgment was brought by a majority of votes (4:1), with Judge Shahabuddeen dissenting.
This has put a period to the oldest case before the Tribunal in The Hague, initiated more than ten years ago. Dragan Nikolic a/k/a Jenki, who commanded the Susica camp near Vlasenica between June and September 1992, was the first person to be indicted by the OTP. The indictment was signed in November 1994 by the then Chief Prosecutor, Richard Goldstone. Nikolic was arrested and transferred to The Hague in April 2000 and in September 2003 he pleaded guilty to nine murders and four cases of torture, aiding and abetting rape and participation in the persecution of non-Serb population in Vlasenica area of Eastern Bosnia.
In the plea agreement, the prosecution and defense jointly recommended a sentence of 15 years in prison. Nikolic referred to that in his appeal. However, the Appeals Chamber noted today that the Trial Chamber is “not bound by any agreement reached by the parties” in the imposition of the sentence, and that by imposing a more severe sentence it “did not abuse its discretion.”