National Implementation of IHL
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Vrdoljak case, Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 10 July 2008
Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (last accessed on 23.09.2013)

On 10 July 2008 the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Section I for War Crimes, found the accused – a member of the 103rd Derventa Brigade of the Croat Defence Council (HVO), guilty of "crimes against civilians", committed against persons of Serb ethnicity from the territory of Derventa and Bosanski Brod municipalities. The events occurred between late June and late July 1992. The accused was sentenced to five years of imprisonment.

The Court ruled that Mr. Vrdoljak, acting contrary to international humanitarian law, in particular Article 3(1)(a) and (c) common to the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, inhumanely treated prisoners by mentally and physically abusing them, and inflicted great physical and mental suffering upon them. Under the Bosnian Criminal Code, the offences and mode of liability were found to violate Article 173 (1)(c) and fall under Articles 29 (related to accomplices) and 180(1) (individual criminal responsibility).

The Court also found that the applicability to the case of the 2003 Criminal Code and its system of penalties – adopted after the commission of the crimes – did not violate the principle of legality. The Court pointed out that the crime for which the accused was found guilty constitutes a crime under international customary law and thus falls under "general principles of international law" stipulated under Article 4a of the Law on Amendments to the Criminal Code of BiH and "general principles of law recognised by civilized nations" stipulated under Article 7 (2) of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Further the Court pointed out that the customary status of criminal responsibility for war crimes against civilians and individual responsibility for war crimes committed in 1992 was recognised by the UN Secretary General, the International Law Commission as well as ICTY and ICTR jurisprudence. In its view, these institutions have established that criminal responsibility for war crimes against civilians constitutes a peremptory norm of international law or jus cogens.Such conclusion, according to the Court, was confirmed by the Study on Customary International Humanitarian Law conducted by the ICRC, namely Rules 156, 151 and 158.

The Court also referred to the UN General Assembly Resolution 95 (I) from 1946 as well as to work by the International Law Commission referring to the Nuremberg Charter.

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application/pdf 1,452 KB Vrdoljak case - Decision of 10 August 2008.pdf