Zoran Kupreskic

09.01.2012 ( Last modified: 09.06.2016 )
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

facts

Zoran Kupreskic was born on 23 September 1958 in Pirici, Bosnia-Herzegovina. He is married and is the father of three children. Before the war he was an employee at the Slobodan Princip Seljo factory in Vitez.

Zoran Kupreskic was the local commander of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) for the Ahmici region.

The HVO was the supreme executive, administrative and military body of the HZ H-B/HR-B (Croatian Community of the Herceg-Bosna/Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna), created in 1991. This community, considered itself as an independent political entity within the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

According to the indictment, modified on 9 February 1998, Zoran Kupreskic, between October 1992 and April 1993, was reported to have persecuted the Muslim inhabitants of Ahmici-Santici and its surroundings on political, racial or religious grounds by planning, organising and carrying out an attack aimed at evacuating or “cleansing” the village and the surrounding region of all of the Bosnian Muslims.

The same indictment alleged that he had helped in the preparations for the April attack, against the civilian population of Ahmici-Santici. The HVO was said to have firstly bombarded Ahmici-Santici from a distance, with groups of soldiers subsequently going from house to house and, using incendiary tracer bullets and explosives, aggressing Bosnian Muslim civilians and laying hold of their belongings.

At dawn on 16 April 1993, during this attack on Ahmici, Zoran Kupreskic was said to have broken into the house of a Muslim family accompanied by his brother Mirjan (see “related cases”) and together, to have killed four people and seriously injured a fifth after first setting the house on fire.

Zoran Kupreskic gave himself up voluntarily on 6 October 1997. He was transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague on the same day.

legal procedure

Zoran Kupreskic gave himself up voluntarily on 6 October 1997. He was transferred to The Hague on the same day. He appeared before the ICTY for the first time on 8 October 1997, and pleaded not guilty to the eleven counts with which he was charged.

Zoran Kupreskic was charged on the basis of his individual criminal responsibility (Art. 7 §1 ICTY Statute) for:

– 6 counts of crimes against humanity (Art. 5: persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, murder and other inhumane acts);
– 5 counts of violations of the laws or customs of war (Art. 3:murder and cruel treatment).

On 14 January 2000, the Trial Chamber pronounced Zoran Kupreskic guilty by way of his individual criminal responsibility for:

– one count of crimes against humanity (Art. 5: persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds)

and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

On the other hand, Zoran Kupreskic was found not guilty on the basis of his individual criminal responsibility for:

– crimes against humanity (Art. 5: murder and other inhumane acts) and
– violations of the laws or customs of war (Art. 3: murder and cruel treatment).

Indeed, given the difficulty of establishing the precise facts more than six years afterwards, and given the lack of credibility on the part of the principle witness, the Tribunal allowed the accused the benefit of the doubt concerning his participation in the attack committed against the house of one of the Muslim families in Ahmici.

On 26 January 2000, Zoran Kupreskic filed an appeal.

By its decision of 23 October 2001, the Appeals Chamber declared Zoran Kupreskic not guilty, revoked his sentence and ordered his immediate release.

In reality, the Appeals Chamber judged that the evidence which had been presented to demonstrate his involvement in persecution during the attack on Ahmici was not credible. It also possessed new evidence demonstrating that Zoran Kupreskic had not provided information concerning Ahmici village, nor had he allowed his home to be used as a base for the armed forces which had attacked the village.

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.