Appeal starts for Bosnian Serb war crimes convicts

14th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Two cousins convicted of killing Muslims during Bosnia's 1992-95 war returned to court Wednesday for the start of an appeal to overturn their 2009 war crimes conviction.

In July 2009, Milan Lukic was sentenced to life imprisonment and his cousin Sredoje Lukic to 30 years in jail for crimes that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) said exemplified "the worst acts of inhumanity".

"The court made certain oversights in the first trial regarding the identification of the appellant," Milan Lukic's lawyer Tomislav Visnjic told The Hague-based ICTY at the Wednesday hearing.

He said the evidence introduced at the first trial did not "clearly identify" his client.

A panel of judges previously found Milan Lukic, 44, guilty of killing at least 132 Muslims.

Among other things, it said he helped burn alive at least 119 people who were locked up by paramilitary fighters in two different houses that were set on fire on different days in June 1992.

His cousin Sredoje, 50, was present at one of the burnings.

While the court found no evidence of Sredoje's active participation, it said "by his presence and by being armed, he substantially contributed to the deaths."

Milan Lukic was a founding member of a group known as the White Eagles or Avengers that worked with police and military units between 1992 and 1994 to terrorise Muslim communities. His cousin joined later.

Milan Lukic was transferred to The Hague in February 2006 from Argentina, where he was arrested in August 2005, having been on the run for more than five years.

Sredoje Lukic, who was hiding in Russia according to prosecutors, turned himself in to Bosnian Serb authorities in September 2005, and was then transferred to The Hague.

Both had been on a list of 10 most-wanted Serbs.

© 2011 AFP

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