Slobodan Praljak

06.05.2016 ( Last modified: 02.06.2016 )
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Slobodan Praljak was born on 2 January 1945, in the town of Capljina, in Capljina Municipality, Bosnia-Herzegovina. As an electrical engineer in Zagreb, he worked as a theatre, cinema and television producer, but also lectured in philosophy and psychology. In the early summer of 1991, he joined the Army of the Republic of Croatia and, by 3 April 1992, held the rank of major general.

On or about 14 March 1992, he became Deputy Minister of Defence of the Republic of Croatia. On 10 September 1992, he was appointed member of the Republic of Croatia’s Council of National Defence, and he remained in this position at least until15 June 1993. On 13 May 1993, he was assigned to the Republic of Croatia’s State Commission for relations with the United Nations Protection Force (“UNPROFOR”).

According to the indictment, on or before 18 November 1991, and until around April 1994, Slobodan Praljak 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 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 2’700 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 death or serious injury of many Bosnian Muslim detainees. Then, many Bosnian Muslims detained at Gabela Prison were 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.

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

legal procedure

Slobodan Praljak 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.

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

The trial began 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 began its case on 5 May 2008, and rested it on 17 May 2010. The closing arguments of the parties were pleaded between 7 February and 2 March 2011.

On 21 April 2011 the Trial Chamber III rejected Praljak’s motion for provisional release, against which Praljak appealed on 6 May 2011. However, on 10 June 2011 the Appeals Chamber dismissed Praljak’s appeal in its entirety.

On 29 May 2013, the ICTY sentenced him to 20 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.

The judgement has not come into effect yet. On 28 June 2013, Praljak filed his notice of appeal against the Trial Chamber’s judgement.



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.

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