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The Prosecutor v. Milan Babić

Court International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Trial Chamber I, The Netherlands
Case number IT-03-72-S
Decision title Sentencing Judgment
Decision date 29 June 2004
  • The Prosecutor
  • Milan Babić
Categories Crimes against humanity
Keywords aggravating and mitigating circumstances, crimes against humanity, Gravity, guilty plea, Krajina, Persecutions, Sentence
Other countries involved
  • Croatia (Hrvatska)
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The case against Milan Babić centered around the crimes that were committed by Serb forces in the Autonomous Region of Krajina (SAO Krajina) in Croatia, later known as the Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK). Between August 1991 and February 1992, Serb forces attacked towns and villages in the Krajina region. After taking over control of the area, a campaign of crimes was commenced during which Croats and other non-Serbs were subjected to murder, imprisonment, deportation, forcible transfer and destruction of their homes, properties and cultural institutions. Babić held several high-level positions, such as President of the RSK. 

On 27 January 2004, Babić pleaded guilty to the crime against humanity of persecutions and, subsequently, on 28 January 2004, Trial Chamber I found him guilty. 

Trial Chamber I balanced the gravity of the crime Babić admitted to with the aggravating and mitigating circumstances in order to determine the adequate sentence. 

It found that the crimes were of extreme gravity and Babić's high level political position was an aggravating factor since he made resources available and prepared the Serb population to accept the crimes of persecution. Trial Chamber I also found several mitigating factors, including Babić's guilty plea, cooperation with the Prosecution, his remorse and family situation. Babić received a sentence of 13 years of imprisonment.

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Procedural history

The indictment was filed on 6 November 2003. On 12 January 2004, the Prosecution and Milan Babić together filed a Plea Agreement and a Statement of Facts. On 22 January 2004, an amended plea agreement was filed. 

On 27 January 2004, Babić pleaded guilty to the crime of persecutions committed through a joint criminal enterprise. Trial Chamber I accepted the plea and entered a finding of guilt one day later (see ICTY, ‘Milan Babic's Guilty Plea to One Count of Crimes Against Humanity Accepted by Trial Chamber I’, ICTY Press Release, 28 January 2004.

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Related developments

On 3 September 2004, Milan Babić filed his notice of appeal. On 18 July 2005, the Appeals Chamber affirmed the sentence of Trial Chamber I. 

On 5 March 2006, Milan Babić committed suicide in his cell at the United Nations Detention Unit. See ICTY, ‘Milan Babic Found Dead in Detention Unit’, ICTY Press Release, 6 March 2006.

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Legally relevant facts

Between August 1991 and February 1992, Serb forces attacked towns and villages in the Autonomous Region of Krajina (SAO Krajina) in Croatia. After the take-over, a campaign of persecutions was set into motion, which resulted in hundreds of Croats and non-Serbs being murdered, imprisoned, and subjected to inhumane conditions while thousands were deported or forcible transferred from the Krajina region. Their homes, public and private properties, cultural institution and sacred sites were destroyed (paras. 14-15). 

The attacks aimed to permanently and forcibly remove the majority of the Croat and other non-Serb populations from approximately one-third of Croatia in order to transform that territory into a Serb-dominated state(para. 16). 

By December 1991, the Serb authorities proclaimed the Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK) (para. 17). During the time relevant to the indictment, Babić held several high-level positions, including the position of President of the RSK in December 1991. He was also the commander-in-chief of the SAO Krajina's armed forces (paras. 18-23). 

Babić pleaded guilty to the crime against humanity of persecution on political, racial, and religious grounds, as manifested through the commission of various crimes against the non-Serb civilians of the Krajina region (paras. 29-30). Babić was found responsible as a co-perpetrator in the context of a joint criminal enterprise (para. 41).

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Core legal questions

  • Considering the gravity of the crimes, the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, what is the appropriate sentence for Milan Babić?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Articles 23 and 24 of the ICTY Statute.
  • Rules 87(C) and 101 of the ICTY Rules of Procedure and Evidence.

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Court's holding and analysis

Trial Chamber I was persuaded of the extreme gravity of the crime to which Babić pleaded guilty” (para. 53). 

Trial Chamber I found that “the fact that Babić held and remained in high political positions counts as an aggravating circumstance”(para. 62) since “as a regional political leader he enlisted the resources of the [Serbian Autonomous Region] Krajina to further the joint criminal enterprise and by his speeches and media exposure prepared the ground for the Serb population to accept that their goals could be achieved through acts of persecution” (para. 61). In addition, “by allowing the campaign of persecutions to continue he amplified its consequences” (para. 61).

Turning to the mitigating circumstances, Trial Chamber I accepted that “the following factors establish that a reduced sentence is appropriate: Babić’s admission of guilt and the promptness thereof; his voluntary contact with the Prosecution prior to confirmation of the indictment against him and his substantial cooperation with the Prosecution not only in his own case but also in other trials before this Tribunal; his voluntary appearance after confirmation of the indictment against him; his showing of remorse; and his family and personal situation” (para. 97). 

Babić was sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment (para. 102).

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials