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The Prosecutor v. Tihomir Blaškić

Court International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Appeals Chamber, The Netherlands
Case number IT-95-14-A
Decision title Judgment
Decision date 29 July 2004
  • The Prosecutor
  • Tihomir Blaškić
Categories Crimes against humanity, War crimes
Keywords acquittal, crimes against humanity, individual responsibility, Lašva Valley, new sentence, Superior responsibility, war crimes
Other countries involved
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
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Tihomir Blaškić was brought before the ICTY for his role as Commander of the armed forces of the Croatian Defence Council during the events that took place in the area of Lašva Valley (Bosnia and Herzegovina) between May 1992 and January 1994. The Trial Chamber found him responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 45 years of imprisonment. 

The Appeals Chamber found numerous errors in the trial judgment. 

Firstly, it held that the mental requirement for the mode of responsibility of ordering a crime under the Statute of the Tribunal was erroneously determined. Convicting Blaškić on the basis of the same facts under two separate modes of responsibility was also found to be an error. Secondly, the Appeals Chamber found that the Trial Chamber made errors in its assessment of the contextual requirements of crimes against humanity. And thirdly, the Appeals Chamber acquitted Blaškić of several charges committed in various locations in central Bosnia since it found that the prerequisite elements of these crimes have not been fulfilled.

The Appeals Chamber concluded by reducing Blaškić' sentence to 9 years prison.

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Procedural history

The (second, amended) indictment was filed on 25 April 1997. The trial commenced on 24 June 1997, and the Trial Chamber rendered its decision on 3 March 2000.  

Tihomir Blaškić filed his notice of appeal on 17 March 2000.

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Related developments

On 29 July 2004, Tihomir Blaškić was granted early release (see ICTY, 'Tihomir Blaskic Granted Early Release', Press Release, 29 July 2004). 

On 29 July 2005, the Prosecution filed for a review of the appeals judgment on the basis of new facts. The motion was dismissed on 23 November 2006.

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Legally relevant facts

The case concerned the crimes that have been committed in the Lašva Valley (Bosnia and Herzegovina) between May 1992 and January 1994 in the ambit of the conflict between the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) and the forces of the Bosnian Muslim Army. During this time, Tihomir Blaškić was the Commander of the HVO Armed Forces in Central Bosnia (para. 2). 

The Trial Chamber convicted Blaškić of war crimes and crimes against humanity on the basis of both individual criminal responsibility (Article 7(1) of the ICTY Statute) and superior responsibility (Article 7(3) of the ICTY Statute). The Trial Chamber handed down a sentence of 45 years of imprisonment (para. 3).

Blaškić appealed the decision and filed a great amount of additional evidence (paras. 4-6).

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Core legal questions

  • Did the Trial Chamber err in its legal and factual findings with respect to the conviction of Tihomir Blaškić?
  • Can the Appeals Chamber uphold any of the grounds adduced by the Appellant?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Article 25 of the ICTY Statute.
  • Rules 117 and 118 of the ICTY RPE.

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Court's holding and analysis

With respect to the Trial Chamber's alleged errors made under Article 7(1) of the ICTY Statute, the Appeals Chamber held that “none of the Trial Chamber’s ... articulations of the mens rea for ordering under Article 7(1) of the Statute, in relation to a culpable mental state that is lower than direct intent, is correct. The knowledge of any kind of risk, however low, does not suffice for the imposition of criminal responsibility” (para. 41) but only “a person who orders an act or omission with the awareness of the substantial likelihood that a crime will be committed in the execution of that order, has the requisite mens rea(para. 42). 

Furthermore, “the concurrent conviction pursuant to Article 7(1) and Article 7(3) of the Statute in relation to the same counts based on the same facts ... constitutes a legal error” (para. 92). 

The Appeals Chamber found that the Trial Chamber had indeed erred in law with respect to the contextual elements of Article 5 of the ICTY Statute(para. 94 et seq.). Blaškić was acquitted of numerous charges concerning the crimes committed in the area of Ahmići (Bosnia and Herzegovina) (para. 304 et seq.) and in three other central Bosnian municipalities (para. 423 et seq.). The Appeals Chamber imposed a new sentence of 9 years of imprisonment.

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited

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Related cases

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Additional materials