introduction The greatest mass killing in Europe since the end of World War II occurred at Srebrenica, located in eastern Bosnia close to the border with Serbia. Historically a Muslim enclave, its existence thwarted Serb plans to create a larger Serb entity that would include major parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In July 1995 the Bosnian Serb forces, under the command of General Ratko Mladic, ethnically cleansed the women and children from the area, and then proceeded to summarily execute the men. It is believed that 7,000 to 8,000 unarmed prisoners were murdered within the space of a few days. Radislav Krstic was one of the military leaders involved in the Serb actions in and around Srebrenica. In the first conviction for genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, he was found guilty in August 2001. In April 2004 the Appeals Chamber concluded that Krstic did not intend to exterminate the Muslim population of Srebrenica, but because he assisted Mladic with knowledge of the genocidal plans, he was guilty as an accomplice.
PROSECUTOR v. RADISLAV KRSTIC (Case No: IT-98-33-A) JUDGEMENT, 19 April 2004
1. The Appeals Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia Since 1991 is seised of two appeals from the written Judgement rendered by the Trial Chamber on 2 August 2001 in the case of Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic, Case No. IT-98-33-T ("Trial Judgement"). Having considered the written and oral submissions of the Prosecution and the Defence, the Appeals Chamber hereby renders its Judgement.
2. Srebrenica is located in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. It gave its name to a United Nations so-called safe area, which was intended as an enclave of safety set up to protect its civilian population from the surrounding war. Since July 1995, however, Srebrenica has also lent its name to an event the horrors of which form the background to this case. The depravity, brutality and cruelty with which the Bosnian Serb Army ("VRS") treated the innocent inhabitants of the safe area are now well known and documented. Bosnian women, children and elderly were removed from the enclave, and between 7,000 – 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men were systematically murdered.
3. Srebrenica is located in the area for which the Drina Corps of the VRS was responsible. Radislav Krstic was a General-Major in the VRS and Commander of the Drina Corps at the time the crimes at issue were committed. For his involvement in these events, the Trial Chamber found Radislav Krstic guilty of genocide; persecution through murders, cruel and inhumane treatment, terrorising the civilian population, forcible transfer and destruction of personal property; and murder as a violation of the laws or customs of war. Radislav Krstic was sentenced to forty-six years of imprisonment.
4. For ease of reference, two annexes are appended to this Judgement. Annex A contains a Procedural Background, detailing the progress of this appeal. Annex B contains a Glossary of Terms, which provides references to and definitions of citations and terms used in this Judgement.
II. THE TRIAL CHAMBER'S FINDING THAT GENOCIDE OCCURRED IN SREBRENICA
1. The Defence appeals Radislav Krstic's conviction for genocide committed against Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica. The Defence argues that the Trial Chamber both misconstrued the legal definition of genocide and erred in applying the definition to the circumstances of this case. With respect to the legal challenge, the Defence's argument is two-fold. First, Krstic contends that the Trial Chamber's definition of the part of the national group he was found to have intended to destroy was unacceptably narrow. Second, the Defence argues that the Trial Chamber erroneously enlarged the term "destroy" in the prohibition of genocide to include the geographical displacement of a community.
A. The Definition of the Part of the Group
2. Article 4 of the Tribunal's Statute, like the Genocide Convention, covers certain acts done with "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such." The Indictment in this case alleged, with respect to the count of genocide, that Radislav Krstic "intend[ed] to destroy a part of the Bosnian Muslim people as a national, ethnical, or religious group." The targeted group identified in the Indictment, and accepted by the Trial Chamber, was that of the Bosnian Muslims. The Trial Chamber determined that the Bosnian Muslims were a specific, distinct national group, and therefore covered by Article 4. This conclusion is not challenged in this appeal.
3. As is evident from the Indictment, Krstic was not alleged to have intended to destroy the entire national group of Bosnian Muslims, but only a part of that group. The first question presented in this appeal is whether, in finding that Radislav Krstic had genocidal intent, the Trial Chamber defined the relevant part of the Bosnian Muslim group in a way which comports with the requirements of Article 4 and of the Genocide Convention.
4. It is well established that where a conviction for genocide relies on the intent to destroy a protected group "in part," the part must be a substantial part of that group. The aim of the Genocide Convention is to prevent the intentional destruction of entire human groups, and the part targeted must be significant enough to have an impact on the group as a whole. Although the Appeals Chamber has not yet addressed this issue, two Trial Chambers of this Tribunal have examined it. In Jelisic, the first case to confront the question, the Trial Chamber noted that, "[g]iven the goal of the [Genocide] Convention to deal with mass crimes, it is widely acknowledged that the intention to destroy must target at least a substantial part of the group." The same conclusion was reached by the Sikirica Trial Chamber: "This part of the definition calls for evidence of an intention to destroy a substantial number relative to the total population of the group." As these Trial Chambers explained, the substantiality requirement both captures genocide's defining character as a crime of massive proportions and reflects the Convention's concern with the impact the destruction of the targeted part will have on the overall survival of the group.
5. The question has also been considered by Trial Chambers of the ICTR, whose Statute contains an identical definition of the crime of genocide. These Chambers arrived at the same conclusion. In Kayishema, the Trial Chamber concluded, after having canvassed the authorities interpreting the Genocide Convention, that the term "'in part' requires the intention to destroy a considerable number of individuals who are part of the group." This definition was accepted and refined by the Trial Chambers in Bagilishema and Semanza, which stated that the intent to destroy must be, at least, an intent to destroy a substantial part of the group.
6. This interpretation is supported by scholarly opinion. The early commentators on the Genocide Convention emphasized that the term "in part" contains a substantiality requirement. Raphael Lemkin, a prominent international criminal lawyer who coined the term "genocide" and was instrumental in the drafting of the Genocide Convention, addressed the issue during the 1950 debate in the United States Senate on the ratification of the Convention. Lemkin explained that "the destruction in part must be of a substantial nature so as to affect the entirety." He further suggested that the Senate clarify, in a statement of understanding to accompany the ratification, that "the Convention applies only to actions undertaken on a mass scale." Another noted early commentator, Nehemiah Robinson, echoed this view, explaining that a perpetrator of genocide must possess the intent to destroy a substantial number of individuals constituting the targeted group. In discussing this requirement, Robinson stressed, as did Lemkin, that "the act must be directed toward the destruction of a group," this formulation being the aim of the Convention.
7. Recent commentators have adhered to this view. The International Law Commission, charged by the UN General Assembly with the drafting of a comprehensive code of crimes prohibited by international law, stated that "the crime of genocide by its very nature requires the intention to destroy at least a substantial part of a particular group." The same interpretation was adopted earlier by the 1985 report of Benjamin Whitaker, the Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.
8. The intent requirement of genocide under Article 4 of the Statute is therefore satisfied where evidence shows that the alleged perpetrator intended to destroy at least a substantial part of the protected group. The determination of when the targeted part is substantial enough to meet this requirement may involve a number of considerations. The numeric size of the targeted part of the group is the necessary and important starting point, though not in all cases the ending point of the inquiry. The number of individuals targeted should be evaluated not only in absolute terms, but also in relation to the overall size of the entire group. In addition to the numeric size of the targeted portion, its prominence within the group can be a useful consideration. If a specific part of the group is emblematic of the overall group, or is essential to its survival, that may support a finding that the part qualifies as substantial within the meaning of Article 4.
9. The historical examples of genocide also suggest that the area of the perpetrators' activity and control, as well as the possible extent of their reach, should be considered. Nazi Germany may have intended only to eliminate Jews within Europe alone; that ambition probably did not extend, even at the height of its power, to an undertaking of that enterprise on a global scale. Similarly, the perpetrators of genocide in Rwanda did not seriously contemplate the elimination of the Tutsi population beyond the country's borders. The intent to destroy formed by a perpetrator of genocide will always be limited by the opportunity presented to him. While this factor alone will not indicate whether the targeted group is substantial, it can — in combination with other factors — inform the analysis.
10. These considerations, of course, are neither exhaustive nor dispositive. They are only useful guidelines. The applicability of these factors, as well as their relative weight, will vary depending on the circumstances of a particular case.
11. In this case, having identified the protected group as the national group of Bosnian Muslims, the Trial Chamber concluded that the part the VRS Main Staff and Radislav Krstic targeted was the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica, or the Bosnian Muslims of Eastern Bosnia. This conclusion comports with the guidelines outlined above. The size of the Bosnian Muslim population in Srebrenica prior to its capture by the VRS forces in 1995 amounted to approximately forty thousand people. This represented not only the Muslim inhabitants of the Srebrenica municipality but also many Muslim refugees from the surrounding region. Although this population constituted only a small percentage of the overall Muslim population of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time, the importance of the Muslim community of Srebrenica is not captured solely by its size. As the Trial Chamber explained, Srebrenica (and the surrounding Central Podrinje region) were of immense strategic importance to the Bosnian Serb leadership. Without Srebrenica, the ethnically Serb state of Republica Srpska they sought to create would remain divided into two disconnected parts, and its access to Serbia proper would be disrupted. The capture and ethnic purification of Srebrenica would therefore severely undermine the military efforts of the Bosnian Muslim state to ensure its viability, a consequence the Muslim leadership fully realized and strove to prevent. Control over the Srebrenica region was consequently essential to the goal of some Bosnian Serb leaders of forming a viable political entity in Bosnia, as well as to the continued survival of the Bosnian Muslim people. Because most of the Muslim inhabitants of the region had, by 1995, sought refuge within the Srebrenica enclave, the elimination of that enclave would have accomplished the goal of purifying the entire region of its Muslim population.
12. In addition, Srebrenica was important due to its prominence in the eyes of both the Bosnian Muslims and the international community. The town of Srebrenica was the most visible of the "safe areas" established by the UN Security Council in Bosnia. By 1995 it had received significant attention in the international media. In its resolution declaring Srebrenica a safe area, the Security Council announced that it "should be free from armed attack or any other hostile act." This guarantee of protection was re-affirmed by the commander of the UN Protection Force in Bosnia (UNPROFOR) and reinforced with the deployment of UN troops. The elimination of the Muslim population of Srebrenica, despite the assurances given by the international community, would serve as a potent example to all Bosnian Muslims of their vulnerability and defenselessness in the face of Serb military forces. The fate of the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica would be emblematic of that of all Bosnian Muslims.
13. Finally, the ambit of the genocidal enterprise in this case was limited to the area of Srebrenica. While the authority of the VRS Main Staff extended throughout Bosnia, the authority of the Bosnian Serb forces charged with the take-over of Srebrenica did not extend beyond the Central Podrinje region. From the perspective of the Bosnian Serb forces alleged to have had genocidal intent in this case, the Muslims of Srebrenica were the only part of the Bosnian Muslim group within their area of control.
14. In fact, the Defence does not argue that the Trial Chamber's characterization of the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica as a substantial part of the targeted group contravenes Article 4 of the Tribunal's Statute. Rather, the Defence contends that the Trial Chamber made a further finding, concluding that the part Krstic intended to destroy was the Bosnian Muslim men of military age of Srebrenica. In the Defence's view, the Trial Chamber then engaged in an impermissible sequential reasoning, measuring the latter part of the group against the larger part (the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica) to find the substantiality requirement satisfied. The Defence submits that if the correct approach is properly applied, and the military age men are measured against the entire group of Bosnian Muslims, the substantiality requirement would not be met.
15. The Defence misunderstands the Trial Chamber's analysis. The Trial Chamber stated that the part of the group Radislav Krstic intended to destroy was the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica. The men of military age, who formed a further part of that group, were not viewed by the Trial Chamber as a separate, smaller part within the meaning of Article 4. Rather, the Trial Chamber treated the killing of the men of military age as evidence from which to infer that Radislav Krstic and some members of the VRS Main Staff had the requisite intent to destroy all the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica, the only part of the protected group relevant to the Article 4 analysis.
16. In support of its argument, the Defence identifies the Trial Chamber's determination that, in the context of this case, "the intent to kill the men (of military age) amounted to an intent to destroy a substantial part of the Bosnian Muslim group." The Trial Chamber's observation was proper. As a specific intent offense, the crime of genocide requires proof of intent to commit the underlying act and proof of intent to destroy the targeted group, in whole or in part. The proof of the mental state with respect to the commission of the underlying act can serve as evidence from which the factfinder may draw the further inference that the accused possessed the specific intent to destroy.
17. The Trial Chamber determined that Radislav Krstic had the intent to kill the Srebrenica Bosnian Muslim men of military age. This finding is one of intent to commit the requisite genocidal act - in this case, the killing of the members of the protected group, prohibited by Article 4(2)(a) of the Statute. From this intent to kill, the Trial Chamber also drew the further inference that Krstic shared the genocidal intent of some members of the VRS Main Staff to destroy a substantial part of the targeted group, the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica.
18. It must be acknowledged that in portions of its Judgement, the Trial Chamber used imprecise language which lends support to the Defence's argument. The Trial Chamber should have expressed its reasoning more carefully. As explained above, however, the Trial Chamber's overall discussion makes clear that it identified the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica as the substantial part in this case.
19. The Trial Chamber's determination of the substantial part of the protected group was correct. The Defence's appeal on this issue is dismissed.
B. The Determination of the Intent to Destroy
20. The Defence also argues that the Trial Chamber erred in describing the conduct with which Radislav Krstic is charged as genocide. The Trial Chamber, the Defence submits, impermissibly broadened the definition of genocide by concluding that an effort to displace a community from its traditional residence is sufficient to show that the alleged perpetrator intended to destroy a protected group. By adopting this approach, the Defence argues, the Trial Chamber departed from the established meaning of the term genocide in the Genocide Convention — as applying only to instances of physical or biological destruction of a group — to include geographic displacement.
21. The Genocide Convention, and customary international law in general, prohibit only the physical or biological destruction of a human group. The Trial Chamber expressly acknowledged this limitation, and eschewed any broader definition. The Chamber stated: "(C(ustomary international law limits the definition of genocide to those acts seeking the physical or biological destruction of all or part of the group. (A(n enterprise attacking only the cultural or sociological characteristics of a human group in order to annihilate these elements which give to that group its own identity distinct from the rest of the community would not fall under the definition of genocide."
22. Given that the Trial Chamber correctly identified the governing legal principle, the Defence must discharge the burden of persuading the Appeals Chamber that, despite having correctly stated the law, the Trial Chamber erred in applying it. The main evidence underlying the Trial Chamber's conclusion that the VRS forces intended to eliminate all the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica was the massacre by the VRS of all men of military age from that community. The Trial Chamber rejected the Defence's argument that the killing of these men was motivated solely by the desire to eliminate them as a potential military threat. The Trial Chamber based this conclusion on a number of factual findings, which must be accepted as long as a reasonable Trial Chamber could have arrived at the same conclusions. The Trial Chamber found that, in executing the captured Bosnian Muslim men, the VRS did not differentiate between men of military status and civilians. Though civilians undoubtedly are capable of bearing arms, they do not constitute the same kind of military threat as professional soldiers. The Trial Chamber was therefore justified in drawing the inference that, by killing the civilian prisoners, the VRS did not intend only to eliminate them as a military danger. The Trial Chamber also found that some of the victims were severely handicapped and, for that reason, unlikely to have been combatants. This evidence further supports the Trial Chamber's conclusion that the extermination of these men was not driven solely by a military rationale.
23. Moreover, as the Trial Chamber emphasized, the term "men of military age" was itself a misnomer, for the group killed by the VRS included boys and elderly men normally considered to be outside that range. Although the younger and older men could still be capable of bearing arms, the Trial Chamber was entitled to conclude that they did not present a serious military threat, and to draw a further inference that the VRS decision to kill them did not stem solely from the intent to eliminate them as a threat. The killing of the military aged men was, assuredly, a physical destruction, and given the scope of the killings the Trial Chamber could legitimately draw the inference that their extermination was motivated by a genocidal intent.
24. The Trial Chamber was also entitled to consider the long-term impact that the elimination of seven to eight thousand men from Srebrenica would have on the survival of that community. In examining these consequences, the Trial Chamber properly focused on the likelihood of the community's physical survival. As the Trial Chamber found, the massacred men amounted to about one fifth of the overall Srebrenica community. The Trial Chamber found that, given the patriarchal character of the Bosnian Muslim society in Srebrenica, the destruction of such a sizeable number of men would "inevitably result in the physical disappearance of the Bosnian Muslim population at Srebrenica." Evidence introduced at trial supported this finding, by showing that, with the majority of the men killed officially listed as missing, their spouses are unable to remarry and, consequently, to have new children. The physical destruction of the men therefore had severe procreative implications for the Srebrenica Muslim community, potentially consigning the community to extinction.
25. This is the type of physical destruction the Genocide Convention is designed to prevent. The Trial Chamber found that the Bosnian Serb forces were aware of these consequences when they decided to systematically eliminate the captured Muslim men. The finding that some members of the VRS Main Staff devised the killing of the male prisoners with full knowledge of the detrimental consequences it would have for the physical survival of the Bosnian Muslim community in Srebrenica further supports the Trial Chamber's conclusion that the instigators of that operation had the requisite genocidal intent.
26. The Defence argues that the VRS decision to transfer, rather than to kill, the women and children of Srebrenica in their custody undermines the finding of genocidal intent. This conduct, the Defence submits, is inconsistent with the indiscriminate approach that has characterized all previously recognized instances of modern genocide.
27. The decision by Bosnian Serb forces to transfer the women, children and elderly within their control to other areas of Muslim-controlled Bosnia could be consistent with the Defence argument. This evidence, however, is also susceptible of an alternative interpretation. As the Trial Chamber explained, forcible transfer could be an additional means by which to ensure the physical destruction of the Bosnian Muslim community in Srebrenica. The transfer completed the removal of all Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica, thereby eliminating even the residual possibility that the Muslim community in the area could reconstitute itself. The decision not to kill the women or children may be explained by the Bosnian Serbs' sensitivity to public opinion. In contrast to the killing of the captured military men, such an action could not easily be kept secret, or disguised as a military operation, and so carried an increased risk of attracting international censure.
28. In determining that genocide occurred at Srebrenica, the cardinal question is whether the intent to commit genocide existed. While this intent must be supported by the factual matrix, the offence of genocide does not require proof that the perpetrator chose the most efficient method to accomplish his objective of destroying the targeted part. Even where the method selected will not implement the perpetrator's intent to the fullest, leaving that destruction incomplete, this ineffectiveness alone does not preclude a finding of genocidal intent. The international attention focused on Srebrenica, combined with the presence of the UN troops in the area, prevented those members of the VRS Main Staff who devised the genocidal plan from putting it into action in the most direct and efficient way. Constrained by the circumstances, they adopted the method which would allow them to implement the genocidal design while minimizing the risk of retribution.
29. The Trial Chamber — as the best assessor of the evidence presented at trial — was entitled to conclude that the evidence of the transfer supported its finding that some members of the VRS Main Staff intended to destroy the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica. The fact that the forcible transfer does not constitute in and of itself a genocidal act does not preclude a Trial Chamber from relying on it as evidence of the intentions of members of the VRS Main Staff. The genocidal intent may be inferred, among other facts, from evidence of "other culpable acts systematically directed against the same group."
30. The Defence also argues that the record contains no statements by members of the VRS Main Staff indicating that the killing of the Bosnian Muslim men was motivated by genocidal intent to destroy the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica. The absence of such statements is not determinative. Where direct evidence of genocidal intent is absent, the intent may still be inferred from the factual circumstances of the crime. The inference that a particular atrocity was motivated by genocidal intent may be drawn, moreover, even where the individuals to whom the intent is attributable are not precisely identified. If the crime committed satisfies the other requirements of genocide, and if the evidence supports the inference that the crime was motivated by the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a protected group, a finding that genocide has occurred may be entered.
31. In this case, the factual circumstances, as found by the Trial Chamber, permit the inference that the killing of the Bosnian Muslim men was done with genocidal intent. As already explained, the scale of the killing, combined with the VRS Main Staff's awareness of the detrimental consequences it would have for the Bosnian Muslim community of Srebrenica and with the other actions the Main Staff took to ensure that community's physical demise, is a sufficient factual basis for the finding of specific intent. The Trial Chamber found, and the Appeals Chamber endorses this finding, that the killing was engineered and supervised by some members of the Main Staff of the VRS. The fact that the Trial Chamber did not attribute genocidal intent to a particular official within the Main Staff may have been motivated by a desire not to assign individual culpability to persons not on trial here. This, however, does not undermine the conclusion that Bosnian Serb forces carried out genocide against the Bosnian Muslims.
32. Among the grievous crimes this Tribunal has the duty to punish, the crime of genocide is singled out for special condemnation and opprobrium. The crime is horrific in its scope; its perpetrators identify entire human groups for extinction. Those who devise and implement genocide seek to deprive humanity of the manifold richness its nationalities, races, ethnicities and religions provide. This is a crime against all of humankind, its harm being felt not only by the group targeted for destruction, but by all of humanity.
33. The gravity of genocide is reflected in the stringent requirements which must be satisfied before this conviction is imposed. These requirements — the demanding proof of specific intent and the showing that the group was targeted for destruction in its entirety or in substantial part — guard against a danger that convictions for this crime will be imposed lightly. Where these requirements are satisfied, however, the law must not shy away from referring to the crime committed by its proper name. By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the forty thousand Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general. They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity. The Bosnian Serb forces were aware, when they embarked on this genocidal venture, that the harm they caused would continue to plague the Bosnian Muslims. The Appeals Chamber states unequivocally that the law condemns, in appropriate terms, the deep and lasting injury inflicted, and calls the massacre at Srebrenica by its proper name: genocide. Those responsible will bear this stigma, and it will serve as a warning to those who may in future contemplate the commission of such a heinous act.
34. In concluding that some members of the VRS Main Staff intended to destroy the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica, the Trial Chamber did not depart from the legal requirements for genocide. The Defence appeal on this issue is dismissed.