On the 20th of July 2009 Court Chambers of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) with Patrick Robinson as a Presiding Judge, has sentenced Milan Lukić for a life term of imprisonment and his cousin Sredoje Lukić to a prison sentence of 30 years. Milan and Sredoje Lukić were sentenced for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against Bosnian Muslims in the Eastern-Bosnian town of Višegrad during the period from June 7th, 1992 until October 10th, 1994. Milan Lukić was found guilty for: persecution, murder, extermination, inhumane acts and cruel treatment as crimes against humanity and war crimes, while Sredoje Lukić was found guilty for committing and aiding and abetting crimes of: persecution, murder, cruel treatment and inhumane acts.

Milan Lukić has committed the above named crimes in connection with six separate incidents:

1.      Killing of 5 Bosnian Muslim men on the bank of River Drina on or about June 7th, 1992;

2.      Killing of 7 Bosnian Muslims in “Varda” furniture factory on or about June 10th, 1992;

3.      Burning alive 59 people (including women and children) in a barricaded house in Pionirska street in Višegrad on or about the June 14th, 1992;

4.      Burning alive at least 60 people (women and children included) in a barricaded house in the Višegrad settlement of Bikavac on or about June 27th, 1992;

5.      Beating of prisoners in Uzamnica prison-camp during the time period from August 1992 until October 1994;

6.      Murder of Hajra Korić in or about June 1992.

Sredoje Lukić was found guilty for two separate incidents:

1.     Burning alive of 59 people (including women and children) in a barricaded house in Pionirska street in Višegrad on June 14th, 1992;

2.     Beeting of prisoners in Uzamnica prison-camp in the time period from August 1992 until October 1994.

Although Sredoje Lukić was indicted for the fire in the Bikavac settlement as well, Court Chambers decided that Prosecution had not proven ”beyond reasonable doubt” that Sredoje Lukić was present during the burning of people in the Bikavac settlement.

Court Chambers concluded that Milan Lukić has personally killed at least 130 people and Presiding Judge Patrick Robinson who characterized Lukić’s crimes as “callous and vicious disregard for human life” has stated in an oral explanation of Judgment that: “In the all too long, sad and wretched history of man’s inhumanity to man, the Pionirska street and Bikavac fires must rank high. At the close of the twentieth century, a century marked by war and bloodshed on a colossal scale, these horrific events stand out for the viciousness of the incendiary attack, for the obvious premeditation and calculation that defined it, for the sheer callousness and brutality of herding, trapping and locking the victims in the two houses, thereby rendering them helpless in the ensuing inferno, and for the degree of pain and suffering inflicted on the victims as they were burnt alive.”

It should be mentioned as well that the indictment did not include two cases of abduction and killing — once 16 and second time 18 Muslim and one Croat civilian (who were citizens of FRY[1] at that time) — in 1992 and 1993 in the townships of Sjeverin and Štrpci. Because of the crime in Sjeverin, Milan Lukić was already sentenced by the Belgrade District Court to 20 years imprisonment.


Reactions to the judgement

Although reports about the Judgment instantly became breaking news and dominated most prominent media in the country for days, silence from the most senior state officials — most of all from the President Boris Tadić and from Prime Minister Mirko Cvetković and other Ministers — was conspicuous. Especially so in light of the fact that in a majority of previous cases when ICTY has passed judgments: none of these dignitaries missed an opportunity to comment on them[2]. In spite of that, mid-ranking state officials, representatives of the judiciary and other prominent public figures expressed their support for the judgment – either in total, or somewhat reserved. In that sense spokesman of the Serbian War crimes department Bruno Vekarić stated that the ICTY judgment in the Milan and Sredoje Lukić case represents “[ICTY Chief Prosecutor] Serge Bramertz’s legal victory”, and that it meant “justice for victims”, whereas Dragoljub Todorović who acts as legal representative of the families of abducted passengers from the train in Štrpci, has stated that it is not clear to him why [former Chief Prosecutor] Carla Del Ponte did not include the crimes in Sjeverin and Štrpci in the indictment because there was more than enough evidence for that”. The statement of Vice-President of Sandžak Democratic Party Meho Omerović that ”Serbian national television – RTS should publish the information about the real nature of the crime and not only about the sentence” should be also considered. Support to the judgment was also expressed in readers’ comments at numerous websites: many expressed their exasperation at the gravity of crimes committed and their belief that justice for the victims was done with this judgment.

Albanians and Naser Orić and they are sentencing Serbs the harshest way. Not a single Serb has gotten away”[3].

Official of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Borislav Pelević: ”If ICTY could increase Veselin Šljivančanin’s sentence from 5 to 17 years, and with the same evidence and witnesses acquit Naser Orić, who -according to UNHCR -­is responsible for the death of 3.267 Serbs, than it is clear that this is anti-Serb Tribunal[4]”.

Kurir daily in its issue on of July 22nd, 2009 published a text under the headline ”Injustice” which contains an emotionally intonated confession of Milan Lukić’s sister Draginja Baltić. Stereotypes about ”anti-Serbian tribunal” on the basis of which Milan Lukić was sentenced are prevailing.

The Pravda daily on the same day carried a text headlined ”Serbs were victims in Eastern Bosnia as well”, which characterized the judgment as politically motivated and one-sided, whereas the ICTY is depicted as a Tribunal which is problematic and established ”to prosecute Serbs only”. This standpoints were supported with statements by some opposition leaders such as Aleksandar Čotrić (Serbian Renewal Movement – SPO), Borislav Pelević (SNS), Dubravka Filipovski (New Serbia), Zoran Nikolić (Democratic Party of Serbia) and others.

One should also highlight comments by some of the visitors of web-sites like Politika[5] and Press daily newspapers, and not just because of the fact that many of them reflect direct support to Milan and Sredoje Lukić, and in various ways justify their acts, but because of the fact that both these newspapers are known for their closeness to the Government of Serbia.

Press daily:

Yes the sentence would be small because you are thirsty of Serbian blood; if there is justice, beasts like Haradinaj and Naser Orić would get the same sentence … All of this is a farce which doesn’t serve truth and justice but to cover up the bombing of our state and taking away our territory. If there is any comfort for Lukić that is the fact that Drina is no longer border of between Serb people. (Mitar July 21, 2009, 01:10)

I can’t see any beasts, I see only heroes! Death to the ICTY, freedom for Šešelj!! (anonymous July 21,2009, 01:57)

They frame us as guilty again, justice for Milan!! He is a hero and bastards from The Hague and domestic fools and traitors are presenting him as villain! (Anonymous July 21, 2009, 04:04)

Many thanks to Milan and Sredoje on everything what they gave to the Serbian people, some alleged crimes will never make real Serbs to forget what two of them did for the Serbian people, they were defending Serb children from Croatian and Muslim hordes of evil while some of them who are condemning them today were in America and other countries which were killing our children (Djindjić, Tadić, Dinkić)! Thank you both of you, brothers! You were dying for Serbia and Serbia repays you like this, after all, there is God who sees the treason of our holy country and everything which is orthodox, [he will punish them] the way he punished Djindjić for atrocities against the Serbian people! (Uros July 21, 2009, 04:10)

And I can see only people who were defending their own people, what should they have done – to stand aside and look how Naser Orić is killing, haven’t they? (anonymous July 21, 2009, 11:04)

Politika daily:

Mixer, Jul. 21, 2009, 14:19

And how much did Orić and Islamic terrorists from Kosovo get for murdering a couple of thousand on they own doorstep; all of them were kids, women and civilians. What they get will reflect the face of ICTY and Serbia. How many years for terrorism and war crimes someone in Serbia who belongs to other nationality for much bigger atrocities would get? If that Lukić is guilty and if he did something like that, he deserves punishment, but at present ICTY is not in a state to pass judgments, and Serbia even less. Neither in Serbia nor in The Hague was there someone who was found accountable for war crimes against Serbs. Consequently, another innocent victim of Serbia has fallen in the name of Government of Serbia and its accession to the EU. It is horrible to be a Serb. Yet again time has Serbia shown to Serbs who love their own people and state that there is no place for them. At the same time a message was sent to those who may intend in the future to defend their state and people, what is waiting for them. Both Serbian and The Hague courts.

Aleksandar Karinkton, Jul. 22, 2009, 09:57

Milan Lukić is a hero he saved Višegrad from Muslims and Muslim fanatics who were raging through the streets of the above named town, they even mistreated innocent bystanders of another nationality. The man is completely innocent.


Outlook:

The Milan and Sredoje Lukić verdict clearly demonstrates that unbiased reporting — if and when void of politicking stereotypes — on the nature and magnitude of crimes tried before the ICTY, can provoke emotional and compassionate reactions and unequivocal condemnation of those crimes. However, a large number of politicians, analysts, journalists and intellectuals still persist on ICTY’s anti-Serb conspiracy, and thus divert attention from what really happened and prevent a sincere confrontation with the recent past. Should Serbia’s political elites continue to flirt with crimes committed in the name of Serbdom, public opinion will be anesthetized — and partly radicalized — to the extent that those crimes will become acceptable irrespective of their monstrous character, as numerous reactions to this verdict vividly show. It is in such an atmosphere that further developmen of democrartic institutions and uphold of human rights can hardly be expected.

 
YUCOM, Human Rights and Democracy Violation, Weekly Newsletter No.42

Peščanik.net, 01.08.2009.


[1] Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

[2] The most characteristic case was the ”Vukovar tree” when the ICTY Appeals Chambers had increased the sentence to Collonel Veselin Sljivancanin from 5 to 17 years of imprisonment, whereupon not a single one of the most senior officials missed an oprtunity to condemnd the judgment. The same reaction happend when Naser Oric was acquited.

[3] Glas javnosti daily July 21st, 2009.

[4] Glas javnosti daily July 21st, 2009.

[5] As regards Politika, it should be noted that this newspaper is published by a house partly owned by government, and is under their direct influence.

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