The defense of the former chief of the VJ General Staff Momcilo Perisic states in its notice of appeal that the majority in the Trial Chamber ‘criminalized war’, noting that ‘if Perisic’s judgment is upheld’ then ‘every military commander […] that gives military help to a foreign state […] during an international armed conflict’ is guilty of aiding and abetting crimes
General Momcilo Perisic’s defense today filed its notice of appeal against the Trial Chamber’s judgment. The Trial Chamber found the former chief of the VJ General Staff guilty of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity and war crimes in Sarajevo and Srebrenica and of failing to punish those who ordered the rocket attacks on Zagreb. Perisic was sentenced to 27 years in prison.
In a total of 17 grounds of appeal, the defense petitions the Appeals Chamber to reverse the Trial Chamber’s judgment and to find the accused not guilty on all counts in the indictment. Alternatively, the defense calls for a new sentence for Perisic, stating in its notice of the appeal, the sentence is ‘unreasonable’. The Trial Chamber reached the judgment with the majority of votes (judges Picard and David). Presiding judge Bakone Moloto stated in his dissenting opinion that Perisic should have been acquitted of all charges.
The defense argues that the Trial Chamber’s judgment was an ‘unreasonable and unrealistic precedent’ that ‘expands the international criminal law beyond appropriate boundaries’. According to the defense, the majority of judges in the Trial Chamber ‘criminalized war’ which is ‘not a crime’ according to the Statute of the Tribunal or international customary law. The defense adds that ‘if Perisic’s conviction is upheld then every military commander or national leader that gives military assistance to a foreign state or third party entity during an international armed conflict’ is responsible for aiding and abetting the crimes simply by rendering assistance to ‘prosecute the war’.
The defense claims that the majority erred when it concluded that providing assistance to the VRS in its war effort amounted to aiding and abetting the crimes committed during the war. According to the defense, the evidence does not show that Perisic’s actions had a substantial effect on the crimes committed by the Bosnian Serb army in Sarajevo and Srebrenica.
The defense also intends to contest the finding that Perisic had the required mens rea for aiding and abetting and that he knew that individual crimes committed by the VRS would probably be followed by more crimes committed by the VRS in Sarajevo and Srebrenica. The defense maintains that the majority failed to analyze whether Perisic knew that ‘his acts’ would assist the commission of crimes.
The defense claims that the judges erred in their conclusion that under the VRS strategy ‘there was no clear distinction between military warfare against the Bosnian Muslim army and crimes against civilians’. According to the defense, this conclusion of the Trial Chamber had a significant effect on the sentence imposed on Perisic. The defense also notes that the Trial Chamber erred when it found that a superior to subordinate relationship existed between Perisic and the perpetrators of the shelling of Zagreb.
In addition to asking the Appeals Chamber to reverse the judgment, the defense alternatively called on the judges to review Perisic’s sentence. The defense argues that the majority of the judges erred in their assessment of the mitigating and aggravating circumstances in the case.
The prosecution hasn’t yet filed an appeal against the Perisic judgment and the deadline for the notice of appeal expires today.