Momcilo Mandic

25.04.2016 ( Last modified: 13.06.2016 )
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

facts

Momčilo Mandić, a Bosnian Serb, was born on 1 May 1954 in Kalinovik in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He is a qualified lawyer and is married with two children.

At the start of 1992, Momčilo Mandić joined the government of Republika Srpska (RS), an administration that self-proclaimed in January 1992 and that was dominated by Bosnian Serbs. Mandić was Deputy Minister for the Interior when, in April 1992, the conflict erupted between the armed forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the military and police of RS in Sarajevo.

The charges against Mandić were that, in his capacity as Deputy Minister for the Interior, he had played a role in the attack on the Interior Ministry Staff Training Centre in the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which took place on the first day of the war, on 6 April 1992. The training centre was in Vraca, south of Sarajevo. Mandić is accused of having transferred all staff and students of Bosnian and Croatian origin to the Vraca Community Centre following the attack.

One group was transported to Pale where they were interrogated, mistreated and imprisoned until 10 April 1992, when they were exchanged and handed over in Sarajevo.

Then, as Justice Minister in RS, Mandić was accused of persecuting non-Serbian civilians in Sarajevo and in the town of Foča. During his term in office, a number of civilians were detained illegally and persecuted in correctional penal institutions (detention camps) that were under the authority of the Ministry for Justice in Ilitža and Foča.

On 19 August 2005, Mandić was arrested following charges of assisting Radovan Karadzic in his escape. Arrested in Montenegro, Mandić was extradited to Bosnia-Herzegovina and detained there.

legal procedure

Following charges that Mandić had assisted Radovan Karadzic in his escape, Mandić was arrested in Montenegro on 19 August 2005 and extradited to Bosnia-Herzegovina, where he was detained.

On 12 July 2006, Bosnia-Herzegovina’s prosecution office charged Mandić and the charges were upheld by a State Court judge.

On the basis of individual responsibility and participation in a joint criminal enterprise, Mandić was charged on four counts:

– One count of war crimes against civilians (violating Article 173 of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Penal Code), in his capacity as Deputy Minister for the Interior, for the attack on the Vraca Staff Training Centre and its after-effects;

– Three counts of crimes against humanity (violating Article 172 of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Penal Code), while Justice Minister, for the treatment of civilians detained in correctional facilities in Illitža and Foča.

On 25 July 2006, Mandić pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and his trial began on 6 November of the same year.

On 18 July 2007, the special Chamber responsible for war crimes delivered its verdict in the first instance. Mandić was acquitted of all charges.

Two main reasons lead to this verdict being delivered. First, the Court considered that the people and students present in the Staff Training Centre in Vraca were not civilians. The charge of war crimes against civilians was therefore rejected. In addition, the Court considered that the Department for Justice was not directly responsible for crimes committed in the detention centre in Illitža and Foča and that the Department for Justice was not the direct superior of those managing these institutions. Mandić’s alleged role in these crimes was therefore rejected.

On 1 September 2009, following an appeal by the prosecution, the verdict of not guilty was upheld, acquitting Mandić of all charges.

However, parallel to this trial, Mandić was being tried in another Chamber of the same court for financial crimes: abuse of authority and forgery of official documents, committed while working as the director of a Serbian bank in 1998. On 27 October 2006, Mandić was found guilty and sentenced to nine years in prison. The verdict was upheld on appeal on 29 March 2007, but the prison term was reduced to five years.

Mandić is currently serving his sentence at Banja Luka prison.

context

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

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 JURISDICTIONS

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.