Court rules Yugoslav war criminals must remain behind bars in Tartu

Tartu County Court building
Tartu County Court building Source:

The first-tier Tartu County Court has ruled that two convicted war criminals serving their sentence in Tartu prison will remain behind bars there. The pair, Dragomir Miloševič, 78, and Milan Martič, 66, have been serving out their sentences meted out by the UN's tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia.

Milan Martič was in 2007 sentenced to 35 years in prison for crimes against humanity by the UN's  International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) .

Tartu County Court said: "In assessing the severity of Milan Martič's crimes, it needs to be stated that they are so extremely serious that in order for an early release, risk of reoffending would need to be very low in his case. This is not the case at present."

On Dragomir Miloševič, sentenced to 29 years, the risk is similarly adjudged as too high to warrant release, Tartu County Court found, despite any positive character judgements while incarcerated.

The court found that: "The convicted individual's (i.e. Miloševič's – ed.) explanations indicate that he has not fully understood the total inadmissibility and gravity of his actions, meaning potential reoffending with related crimes cannot be sufficiently ruled out."

The two hearings were conducted separately.

As reported on ERR News, neither the Tartu prison nor the prosecutor's office supported the pair's release when the Tartu County Court hearing began a month ago, with the prison stating that it would only support release if the men were deported or handed over to another jurisdiction.

The men would have been released on electronic surveillance, had the court ruled in its favor.

Tartu County Court also took into account the UN's international tribunal's opinion on the matter, ERR reports, while another decisive factor was that neither of the convicted have served two-thirds of their original sentences, a date which, under the terms of their imprisonment, triggers eligibility for review. This requirement did not preclude early release under Estonian law, however.

Milan Martić's protestation of innocence in particular were described by the court as "alarming", and grounds for a belief that he has not understood the gravity of his actions.

The court judgment has not entered into force yet.

Both defendants are liable to pay legal costs, ERR reports.

Details of the convicted

78-year-old Milošević is a former Bosnian Serb commander of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps (SRK) of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS), which besieged Sarajevo for three years during the Bosnian War of 1992-1995.

He was convicted on multiple counts of terror, murder and inhumane acts and the deaths of large numbers of civilians.

He was sentenced to 33 years' imprisonment in December 2007, reduced to 29 years on appeal, and has been incarcerated in Tartu Prison since March 2011.

Milan Martić was the last president of the unrecognized republic of Serbian Krajina between 1994 and 1995 during the Croatian War of Independence. In 2007, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison, and since June 2009 has been imprisoned in Tartu also.

Another convicted war criminal, Milan Lukić, 53, a Bosnian Serb war criminal who led the notorious White Eagles paramilitary group during the Bosnian War, is also imprisoned in Tartu.

Estonia's court system is organized on three tiers, with the county and administrative courts (four and two of these resepctively) occupying the lowest of these, followed by the two circuit courts, and then the Supreme Court, which is also based in Tartu.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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