UN tribunal quashes most convictions of former Bosnian Croat general

Tihomir Blaskic, who had been convicted in March 2000 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), will leave jail on Monday after the ICTY’s Appeals Chamber upheld his application for early release.Earlier, the judges had reduced his sentence from 45 years to nine years after overturning all but three of his 19 convictions for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Mr. Blaskic has been in the ICTY’s custody since 1996 and was eligible to apply for early release.The judges said “an enormous amount of additional evidence” had emerged during Mr. Blaskic’s appeal because Croatia had not cooperated previously and had not opened its archives until after the death of former President Franjo Tudjman in December 1999.Mr. Blaskic, who served as an army commander in central Bosnia during the early 1990s, was convicted of war crimes for ordering the massacre of about 100 Muslims in the Bosnian village of Ahmici in April 1993. The villagers, who had been hiding in the cellars of several houses, were discovered and shot dead. The houses were then set on fire.But the ICTY ruled that, once the additional evidence was taken into account, it was not reasonable to find that Mr. Blaskic had control of some of the forces that participated in the massacre, or that his order to attack Ahmici was issued “with the clear intention that the massacre would be committed.”The judges also said the extra evidence showed there was a Muslim military presence in Ahmici and that it was reasonable for Mr. Blaskic to believe they could launch an attack.The ICTY also overturned several convictions relating to the bombing of a truck and attacks on several Bosnian towns between April and September 1993.But the judges upheld the trial court’s finding that Mr. Blaskic was guilty of illegal detainment and the inhumane treatment of prisoners. He forced Muslim prisoners to dig trenches and build fortifications to use in operations by Bosnian Croats against Bosnian Muslims. The former general also used prisoners as human shields to protect his temporary military headquarters during fighting at Vitez in April 1993. read more