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Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Nenad Tanasković

Court Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Section I for War Crimes, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Case number X-KR/06/165
Decision title Verdict
Decision date 24 August 2007
  • The Public Prosecutor
  • Nenad Tanasković
Categories Crimes against humanity
Keywords crimes against humanity, persecution, torture, deprivation of liberty, imprisonment, killing, rape
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During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nenad Tanasković was a reserve police officer in Višegrad, where Serbs were conducting a widespread and systematic attack against the Muslim citizens of this municipality. He was charged for having participated in this attack and having committed crimes against humanity, for example by committing murder, torture and rape; by imprisoning people; and by detaining them in inhumane conditions. The Panel at the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina found him guilty of six of the seven charges made against him, although it did not consider proven that Tanasković had committed murder or detained people in inhumane conditions. He was acquitted of one charge due to lack of evidence. His sentence, 12 years imprisonment instead of the 25 years requested by the Prosecutor, gave rise to outrage on the side of the victims.

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Procedural history

Nenad Tanasković was indicted on 29 September 2006. The former reserve policeman was accused of committing crimes against humanity by participating in a widespread or systematic attack on Bosnian Muslim civilians in the Višegrad municipality. During this attack, hundreds of civilians were killed, tortured, beaten, raped, illegally deprived of liberty, detained in inhumane conditions and forcibly transferred. Specifically, Tanasković was charged with participating in this attack by depriving several persons of their liberty, as well as murdering, forcefully transferring, persecuting and torturing several people. He was also charged with raping a woman and committing other inhumane acts. According to the indictment, he thereby violated Art. 172(1) of the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina (CC BiH), in connection with Art. 29, 35 and 180(1) of the CC BiH. After entering a not guilty plea on 25 October 2006, the trial commenced on 2 February 2007. On 24 August 2007, a judgment in first instance was rendered.

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Related developments

Tanasković appealed, arguing e.g. that the verdict was based solely on unreliable witness statements. The Appellate Division modified the sentence in second instance, but left the other parts of the verdict unchanged.

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Legally relevant facts

During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tanasković was a reserve policeman in Višegrad. He was charged with committing or being an accomplice in or accessory to the following acts, which were part of a widespread or systematic attack on the Muslim population:

  • Detaining a woman and another civilian in mid-May 1992, after which the woman was raped by two soldiers.
  • Capturing two brothers on 23 May 1992, after which Tanasković had interrogated, beaten and detained them in inhumane conditions.
  • Capturing and abusing a father and son on 25 May 1992.
  • Attacking a Muslim village on 31 May 1992, whereby Tanasković used captured civilians as human shields and set fire to buildings.
  • Forcefully transporting civilians on 14 June 1992. Men were separated from the group, beaten, transported (this time without Tanasković’s presence) and killed.
  • Forcing two Bosniak civilians to clean blood, bodies and body parts off a bridge in Višegrad on 16 June 1992, as well as beating one of them and his wife and forcing them to lick blood off the ground.
  • Ordering two citizens to get into his car. Their bodies were subsequently exhumed.
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Core legal questions

In order to substantiate whether Tanasković was guilty of crimes against humanity, the Panel had to establish, firstly, whether:

  1. A widespread or systematic attack existed;
  2. This attack was directed against a civilian population;
  3. A ‘nexus’ existed between the acts of which Tanasković was accused and this attack, namely that the prohibited acts were committed as part of this attack and that Tanasković had knowledge of the attack.

Secondly, the Panel had to establish Tanasković’s personal responsibility for the acts spelled out in the indictment. Therefore, it had to consider proven that Tanasković either perpetrated, planned, instigated, ordered, perpetrated or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution of these acts. Furthermore, the Panel had to assess whether Tanasković could be regarded as an accessory to (some of) these acts.  

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Specific legal rules and provisions

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Court's holding and analysis

The Panel established that from April to June 1992, there was a widespread and systematic attack conducted by the Army of the Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, police and paramilitary formations against the Muslim population of Višegrad (pp. 19-21). Also, a nexus between the acts set out in the indictment and the widespread and systematic attack was established based on, for example, Tanasković’s “interaction and cooperation with other participants in the attack” (pp. 21-23). 

Regarding the question whether Tanasković was personally responsible for the crimes as set out in the indictment, the Panel mainly based its judgement on testimonies of eyewitnesses and direct victims (p. 23). The Panel established Tanasković’s criminal responsibility for crimes against humanity regarding counts 1-5 and 7 of the charges, although the Panel was unable to establish his guilt regarding charges of murder and keeping civilians in inhumane conditions. The Panel qualified the overall actions of the accused as a single act, crimes against humanity-persecution, as his actions, committed with intent,  cannot be viewed as isolated incidents, but exclusively as a whole which, through the described actions, had one goal – discrimination (p. 72). The Panel sentenced Tanasković to 12 years of imprisonment.

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Further analysis

An analysis of the interaction between the War Crimes Chamber of the Court of BiH and the ICTY is provided by Burke-White.

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials

The Court provided case information, including press releases.  Furthermore the website Justice Report followed the case and provided regular updates.