Court to hear challenge to Serb officer's massacre sentence

21st September 2010, Comments 0 comments

The UN's Yugoslav war crimes court said Tuesday it would hold a hearing next month to review last year's decision to triple a Serb officer's sentence on appeal to 17 years for a 1991 massacre.

A review hearing on the sentence handed to Veselin Sljivancanin will be held October 12, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) said in a decision published in The Hague.

Sljivancanin, an ex-major in the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), was convicted in September 2007 over the torture of nearly 200 Croat prisoners of war and sentenced to five years in jail.

His superior officer, ex-colonel Mile Mrksic, was jailed for 20 years for murder and torture.

In May 2009, the tribunal's appeals chamber added murder to Sljivancanin's convictions. He had already served most of his initial jail term and was sentenced further to 17 years in prison.

He was granted a review hearing on the sentencing in July.

The JNA had besieged the Croatian city of Vukovar from August to November 1991, when it fell to Serb forces.

A total of 194 people who sought refuge at the Vukovar Hospital in the last days of the siege were taken to Ovcara where they were beaten and executed by Serb forces.

A majority of appeal judges found that Sljivancanin must have known of an order by Mrksic to withdraw JNA troops from Ovcara and that this would enable local paramilitaries to kill the prisoners.

Sljivancanin's lawyers have presented the evidence of a witness, Miodrag Panic, who said Sljivancanin did not know of the pending withdrawal.

Prosecutors, however, say they have a witness who can discredit Panic's evidence.

© 2010 AFP

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