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Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Paško Ljubičić

Court The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Section I for War Crimes, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Case number X-KR-06/241
Decision title Verdict
Decision date 29 April 2008
  • Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Paško Ljubičić (a.k.a. Toni Raić)
Categories Crimes against humanity, War crimes
Keywords Former Yugoslavia; Lašva Valley; war crimes against civilians; persecution; command responsibility; crimes against humanity
Other countries involved
  • Croatia (Hrvatska)
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On 29 April 2008, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) first instance panel issued its verdict in the case against Paško Ljubičić, also known as Toni Raić, as he called himself after the war in the former Yugoslavia. Ljubičić was initially indicted for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other grave violations of the laws of war, allegedly committed by himself and by Croatian military police forces under his command in 1993, during the war in BiH. However, following a plea agreement, the charges were reduced to include only war crimes against civilians. Ljubičić signed the plea agreement, which the Court accepted. He was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.

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Procedural history

Ljubičić was first indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) on 26 September 2000. He surrendered to the ICTY on 9 November 2001, pleading not guilty on 30 November 2001. The indictment was amended on 2 April 2002, and was followed by the trial. After several years of slow proceedings, on 19 July 2005, the prosecution requested the ICTY to extradite the accused to the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The ICTY granted this request on 12 April 2006, ruling that – since the ICTY’s purpose is to bring justice to those most responsible for the grave crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia – the crimes Ljubičić was indicted for, however serious, were of such (relatively low) gravity, and Ljubičić allegedly held such degree of responsibility, that it was acceptable to have him put on trial in BiH instead of before the ICTY itself. On 22 September 2006, he was transferred to BiH.

The adapted indictment before the Court of BiH was accepted on 21 December 2006.  At a plea hearing held on 9 January 2007, Ljubičić did not enter a plea, arguing that he had already done so at the ICTY; hence, the Court recorded ex officio a plea of not guilty in accordance with the law.  The trial commenced on 11 May 2007; on 24 April 2008 an amended indictment was issued together with a proposed plea agreement.

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Legally relevant facts

The initial indictment alleged that in the period of January-July 1993, Ljubičić, as commander of the 4th Military Police Battalion (including the “Jokers” anti-terrorism unit), had participated – by planning, instigating, ordering, perpetrating or otherwise aiding and abetting – in a widespread or systematic attack on the Bosniak civilian population of the Vitez and Busovača municipalities by the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) forces.  Ljubičić allegedly exercised both formal and de facto control over the members of the HVO Military Police in the area around these municipalities, the Central Bosnia Operative Zone (CBOZ). The indictment alleged, inter alia, that he, on 25 January 1993, gave an order to members of his battalion to attack the Bosniak civilian population of Busovača, which resulted in the death of 27 Bosniak civilians and the looting and destruction of Bosniak homes and businesses. Ljubičić is alleged to have personally participated in this attack. The indictment further alleged that in the morning of 16 April 1993, Ljubičić participated in the planning of an attack on the villages of Ahmići, Nadioci, Pirići and Šantići; he allegedly ordered his battalion members to kill all adult Bosniak men and to expel the entire Bosniak civilian population.  During this attack, around 100 Bosniak civilians were killed, the entire Bosniak population was expelled from the villages, their homes were destroyed, numerous persons suffered serious mental and physical injuries, and the two mosques in the village of Ahmići were blown up. Furthermore, between January and July 1993, members of the battalion, on orders issued by Ljubičić and with his knowledge, illegally arrested Bosniak civilians from the municipalities of Vitez and Busovača in order to subject them to severe physical and psychological abuse in detention centres. And finally, it is alleged that battalion members had used detained Bosniak civilians as human shields and forced them to perform labour for HVO members at the front line. For all these crimes, Ljubičić was charged with crimes against humanity (murder, persecution, unlawful arrest and detention, torture and other inhumane acts), war crimes (attacking civilians and destroying/looting civilian objects/property), and other violations of the laws of war (destruction of religious monuments, namely the two mosques).

 On 24 April 2008, the prosecution issued its new indictment together with a proposed plea agreement; this new indictment charged Ljubičić “only” with war crimes against civilians (hence, it dropped the crimes against humanity charges).

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Core legal questions

Can Paško Ljubičić be held criminally responsible for any of the crimes he is indicted for, namely crimes against humanity, war crimes and other violations of the laws of war?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2003:

  • Article 29 - Accomplices
  • Article 31 - Accessory
  • Article 35 - Intent
  • Article 172 - Crimes against Humanity
  • Article 173(1)(a) and (f) - War Crimes against Civilians
  • Article 179 - Violating the Laws and Practices of Warfare
  • Article 180(1) and (3) - Individual Criminal Responsibility
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Court's holding and analysis

On 29 April 2008, Ljubičić entered the plea agreement, and the Court accepted it, finding that – based on the evidence before it – he was indeed, as commander/superior, guilty of war crimes against civilians committed during the armed conflict in BiH (p. 17).

As regards the sentence, it is remarkable that, while the prosecution asked for a nine-year sentence and the defence for an eight-year sentence, the Court sentenced him to ten years’ imprisonment, even though it found that Ljubičić’s ‘admission of guilt and sincere remorse are mitigating circumstances’ (p. 25). Nevertheless, it should be noted that the time spent in custody from 9 November 2001 to the date of the verdict, seven-and-a-half year later, were credited towards the sentence.

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Instruments cited

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Related cases

Other cases related to the crimes committed at Lašva valley are those against Tihomir Blaškić, Miroslav Bralo, and Hazim Delić.

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Additional materials

Pasko Ljubicic’, Trial.

‘Paško Ljubičić - Case information sheet’, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

‘Ljubičić Paško - Case information’, Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina.

'ICTY accused Paško Ljubičić transferred to Bosnia and Herzegovina', Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, 22 September 2006.

'Custody ordered for Paško Ljubičić',Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, 22 September 2006.

Indictment accepted in the Paško Ljubičić case', Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, 25 December 2006.

Plea hearing in the case of Paško Ljubičić’, Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, 8 January 2007.

Paško Ljubičić enters not guilty plea’,Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, 9 January 2007.

'First status conference in the case of Paško Ljubičić',Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, 5 March 2007.

'Verdict pronounced in the case of Paško Ljubičić’, Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, 29 April 2008.