Saturday, January 29, 2011

War Crimes: Balkans - Lukic Defence Claim New Visegrad Evidence

This article originally appeared in the Institute for War and Peace Reporting,

Lukic Defence Claim New Visegrad Evidence

Convicted war criminal Milan Lukic is seeking to introduce evidence on appeal that a woman – who judges determined he murdered – did not die in the way the indictment and trial judgement state.

Lukic, a former Bosnian Serb reserve policeman, was found guilty in July 2009 of personally killing at least 132 Bosniak civilians in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad during the summer of 1992, more than 100 of whom were trapped in barricaded houses and burned alive.

Milan Lukic was sentenced to life in prison, while his cousin Sredoje Lukic, who was tried alongside him for some of the same crimes, was given 30 years.

In the January 24 motion, Milan Lukic’s lawyers allege that Ismeta Kurspahic, who was found to have died in a house burning on Visegrad’s Pionirska Street, did not in fact “die in the manner and the place as alleged in the indictment, and as stated in the trial judgement”.

They state that the defence team received information from the Bosnian authorities – the details of which remain confidential – that show that Kurspahic “was alive after the date of the alleged Pionirska incident”. In addition, they say that her body was not discovered with other victims of the incident, and was located some distance from Pionirska Street.

“…[This] is strong evidence that in fact she did not perish in the manner concluded by the judgement, and thus the conclusions of guilt and sentence as to Pionirska are thus [a] discernible error,” the lawyers state.

This information was not available during the trial, which took place during 2008 and the first part of 2009, because Kurspahic’s remains were not exhumed until late 2009 and not identified until December 2010, the motion states.

Numerous witnesses named Kurspahic as one of the victims of the fire, but the Lukic defence claims that if this new evidence had been available during the proceedings, the judges would have found that those witnesses “were not witnesses of truth” as regards this incident.

A date for the appeals hearing has not yet been set.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.