Jadranko Prlic

04.05.2016 ( Last modified: 06.06.2016 )
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.


Jadranko Prlic was born on 10 June 1959 in Djakovo, in the Socialist Republic of Croatia. He obtained his doctorate in Economics at Sarajevo University and was a Professor at the University of Mostar In 1989, he became Vice-President of the Government of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and, in late 1990 became its interim President. On 15 May 1992, he was appointed head of the Department of Finance of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), and on 14 August 1992, he was appointed overall President of the executive, administrative and military organs of the HVO.

In August 1993 he became Prime Minister of the Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna then Vice President of the Government and Minister of Defence of the Republic of Herceg-Bosna . From June 1994 to January 1996, he was Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of the Republic of Herceg-Bosna , and Foreign Affairs Minister, from January 1996 to February 2001.

According to the indictment, on or before 18 November 1991, and until April 1994,Jadranko Prlic established and participated in a joint criminal enterprise whose aim was to recreate within the boundaries of Croatian Banovina, an ethnically pure “Greater Croatia”. In pursuing this aim, during the siege of Mostar, he was reported to have incited political, ethnic and religious hatred and to have had recourse to force, intimidation and terror, notably by mass arrests during which people were killed. He reportedly participated in the establishment and expansion of a system of concentration camps and other detention centres. He also was said to have inflicted cruel treatment on Bosnian Muslims, by arranging for their expulsion and forced transfer and by submitting those imprisoned to forced labour.

The same indictment alleged that, from May 1992 as a head of the HVO, he participated in the ethnic cleansing of the town and municipality of Prozor, of the municipality of Gorjni Vakif, of the towns of Sovici and Doljani, and of the municipality of Mostar, notably by attacking Bosnian Muslims, by the pillage and theft of their property, by massive arrests and by inflicting upon them cruel treatment, sexual violence, killings and other forms of persecution.

Between September 1992 and April 1994, the HVO used the Heliodrom Camp, just south of Mostar, as a detention centre where the Bosnian Muslims arrested in Mostar were detained. The prison population was estimated at up to a maximum of about 6,000 at any one time, with detainees being held in inhumane conditions. Between April 1993 and March 1994, the Vojno and Ljubuski Camps, north of Mostar, were also used to hold Bosnian Muslims in detention. Detainees were often subjected to particularly severe mistreatment and used as forced labour, before being deported.

Throughout the year 1993, most of the Bosnian Muslim men in the municipalities of Stolac and Capljina, were arrested and detained in harsh conditions with most of them being killed, whilst the Bosnian Muslim women, children and elderly were systematically forced from their homes which were subsequently destroyed.

From April to September 1993, the HVO used the Dretelj District Military Prison to hold arrested and captured Serbs and about 2700 Bosnian Muslim men. The detainees were subjected to beatings and cruel treatment; the HVO acts and practices resulted in the serious injury and occasional death of many Bosnian Muslim detainees. The Gabela District Military Prison was used in the same way, from 8 June 1993 to April 1994. During the principal time of its use, the HVO, at any one time, confined there about 1,200 Muslim men, including boys younger than age sixteen and men older than sixty, irrespective of their civilian or military status. Detainees were subjected to beatings and cruel treatment. The HVO acts and practices resulted in the deaths of at least six Bosnian Muslim detainees. Many Bosnian Muslims detained at Gabela Prison were subsequently deported by the HVO authorities to other countries. In the municipality of Vares, the HVO used two schools as detention centres, where Bosnian Muslim men were detained in comparable conditions.

Jadranko Prlic voluntarily surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on 5 April 2004.

legal procedure

Jadranko Prlic voluntarily surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on 5 April 2004.

He appeared initially before the ICTY on 6 April 2004 and pleaded not guilty to all counts of the Indictment.

Jadranko Prlic was charged, on the basis of his individual criminal responsibility (Article 7(1) ICTY Statute) and on the basis of his superior criminal responsibility (Article 7(3) ICTY Statute) with:

– eight counts of crimes against humanity (Art. 5 ICTY Statute – persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds; murder; rape; deportation; inhumane acts (forcible transfer); imprisonment; inhumane acts (conditions of confinement); inhumane acts);

– ten counts of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions (Art. 2 ICTY Statute – wilful killing; inhuman treatment (sexual assault); unlawful deportation of a civilian; unlawful transfer of a civilian; unlawful confinement of a civilian; inhuman treatment (conditions of confinement); inhuman treatment; extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly; appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly); and

– eight counts of violations of the laws or customs of war (Art. 3 ICTY Statute – cruel treatment (conditions of confinement); cruel treatment; unlawful labour; wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity; destruction or wilful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion or education; plunder of public or private property; unlawful attack on civilians (Mostar); unlawful infliction of terror on civilians (Mostar); cruel treatment (Mostar siege).

The Jadranko Prlic trial was combined with that of Berislav Pusic, Bruno Stojic,Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic and Valentin Coric.

Jadranko Prlic was provisionally released on 9 September 2004.

His trial began in the Hague on 26 April 2006. The Prosecution completed its case on 24 January 2008.The defence motions for early acquittal were dismissed in February 2008.The Defence case began on 5 May 2008.

Prlic was granted provisional release on 17 July 2008.

The Defence case officially closed on 17 May 2010. The closing arguments took place between 7 February and 2 March 2011.

On 29 May 2013, the ICTY sentenced him to 25 years of imprisonment for crimes against humanity, violations of the laws or customs of war, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions committed between 1992 and 1994. He was found guilty for his participation in a joint criminal enterprise with the objective to remove the Muslim population from the territories on which the Bosnian Croat leadership with the leadership of Croatia wanted to establish Croat domination.

On 28 June 2013, Prlic’s co-accused Slobodan Praljak and Berislav Pusic filed their notices of appeal against the Trial Chamber’s judgement. Prlic himself did not appeal the verdict, however the Prosecution did so on 27 August 2013 with respect to all six accused, demanding additional convictions and higher sentences. Consequently, Prlic is facing appellate proceedings.

On 27 May 2014, presiding Judge Theodor Meron announced in a status conference on the case that the trial judgement’s translation into Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian is to be expected for June 2014, the English translation for September 2014.



The conflict in former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 1999, shocked international public opinion because of the abuses revealed by the press, which were committed by all parties to the conflict (massacres, forced displacements of population, concentration camps …). The conflict is considered to consist of several separate conflicts, which were ethnic in nature – the war in Slovenia (1991), the war in Croatia (1991-1995), the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995) and the war Kosovo (1998-1999), which also involved the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

The conflicts accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia, when the constituent republics declared their independence. The wars mostly ended after peace accords were signed, and new republics were given full international recognition of their statehood.

In order to restore peace and security in the region, the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of UN Charter, created on 25 May 1993, by Resolution 827, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). It was determined that pursuant to numerous reports of, among other, mass killings, systematic detention, rapes, practice of “ethnic cleansing”, transfers, etc., these acts constituted a threat to international peace and security, necessitating a reaction by Security Council. As the Tribunal was created during the ongoing conflict, the Security Council expressed its hopes that ICTY would contribute to halting violations in the region. Its headquarters are in The Hague, Netherlands.

The Tribunal has jurisdiction to prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law – grave breaches of Geneva Conventions, violations of laws and customs of war, genocide and crimes against humanity – allegedly committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia after 1 January 1991, (no end date was specified). Since its creation, the ICTY has indicted more than 160 people, including heads of states and government members.

The Tribunal’s mandate was originally meant to expire on 31 December 2009, but the Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the Court with several judges, including permanent judges, so that the ongoing trials can be completed. According to the “ICTY Completion Strategy Report” from 18 May 2011, all trials were supposed to be completed by the end of 2012, and all the appeals by the end of 2015. The exceptions were cases of Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic.

The Security Council adopted resolution 1966 on 22 December 2010, establishing International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. The ICTY residual mechanism began functioning on 1 July 2013.

The Tribunal was called to finish its work by the end of 2014, in order to prepare closure and transfer of cases to the Residual Mechanism. The Mechanism is a small and temporary body, which plays important role in ensuring that the completion strategy of ICTY does not result in impunity of fugitives and in injustice. It is conducting all outstanding first instance trials, including those of Karadzic, Mladic and Hadzic. It is also to complete all appeals proceedings that were filed before 1 July 2013.

The ICTY is not the only court with jurisdiction to try alleged perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the former Yugoslavia. The Tribunal has concurrent jurisdiction with national courts. However, it takes precedence over them and may require the referral from the national court at any stage of the proceedings (Article 9 of the ICTY Statute). The Statute does not elaborate how the primacy is to be exercised, but it was asserted by the judges of the ICTY in the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. The primacy can be asserted in three cases: when an international crime is intentionally or unwittingly prosecuted before national court as an “ordinary criminal offence”, when a national court is unreliable, or when the case is closely related, or may be relevant to other cases being tried by the ICTY.


National courts also have jurisdiction to prosecute alleged perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law.

In the former Yugoslavia, the trials of those accused of war crimes have been opened by the courts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Section for War Crimes was set up in the Criminal and Appellate Divisions of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Special Chamber for War Crimes has jurisdiction to prosecute the most serious alleged war crimes committed in Bosnia, and was created to relieve the ICTY, so that it can focus on criminals of high rank. Its establishment was also considered necessary for effective war crimes prosecution in Bosnia. The opening of the Special Chamber was on 9 March 2005.

Additionally, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1244 from 10 June 1999, UN administration was created in Kosovo. Consequently, in 2000 “Regulation 64” Panels in Courts of Kosovo were created, which are mixed chambers at the local courts. They have two international judges and one national. These panels work in collaboration with the ICTY. They have jurisdiction over those responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. They focus on prosecuting lower ranking offenders.

In Serbia, the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor was established on 1 July 2003. It was created to detect and prosecute perpetrators of criminal offenses against humanity and international law, and offences recognised by the ICTY Statute, regardless of the nationality, citizenship, race or religion of the perpetrator and the victim, as long as the acts were committed on the territory of former Yugoslavia after 1 January 1991. Its seat is in Belgrade, Serbia.

Other relevant national jurisdictions are under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows states with a specific legal basis, to try perpetrators of serious crimes regardless of their nationality or that of the victims and regardless of where the crime was committed.