Serb officer's 'alibi' lied, war crimes court told

12th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A witness who has come forward with an alibi for a Serb officer jailed over a 1991 Croatian massacre, was lying, prosecutors told the UN's Yugoslav war crimes court on Tuesday.

Witness Miodrag Panic's evidence "has no impact on the verdict because he cannot be believed on this matter", prosecutor Helen Brady told a hearing to review the court's decision last year to more than triple ex-major Veselin Sljivancanin's sentence from five to 17 years.

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 in the Croatian city of Vukovar which the JNA had besieged 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.

Sljivancanin's superior officer, ex-colonel Mile Mrksic, was jailed for 20 years for murder and torture for the events.

In May 2009, the tribunal's appeals chamber added a count of aiding and abetting murder to Sljivancanin's convictions. He had already served most of his initial jail term by then.

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.

In July, the court granted Sljivancanin's request for a review hearing.

His lawyers have since presented evidence by Panic, who was Mrksic's chief of staff, which they claim confirms that Sljivancanin did not know of the pending withdrawal of troops.

Panic said he attended a meeting on the eve of the withdrawal, and that Mrksic did not mention it to either himself or to Sljivancanin.

But Brady said Panic's evidence should not be believed as he was biased and was seeking to "insulate" himself and his ally from the events.

No date has been set for the judges' decision.

© 2010 AFP

0 Comments To This Article