Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lukic Claims "Media Lynching"

Bosnian Serb convicted of Visegrad killings asks for opportunity to address media ahead of appeals hearing. By Rachel Irwin - International Justice - ICTY TRI Issue 669, 12 Nov 10

At a Hague tribunal status conference this week, convicted war criminal Milan Lukic told judges that he was “no killer” and said the media was spreading false information about him.

Lukic, a former Bosnian Serb reserve policeman, was convicted in July 2009 of personally killing at least 132 Bosniak civilians in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad during the summer of 1992, more than 100 of whom were trapped in barricaded houses and burned alive. Milan Lukic was sentenced to life in prison, while his cousin Sredoje Lukic, who was tried alongside him for some of the same crimes, was given 30 years.

The Lukic cousins, both of whom were present at the status conference, have appealed against their convictions and are now awaiting the appeals hearing, which Presiding Judge Mehmet Guney said will probably not take place until February 2011.

Judge Guney also asked after Milan Lukic’s health and about conditions in the United Nations detention unit.

“Before I tell you what the problem is, I’d like to inform you that [I am] doing everything to stay dignified and proud until the end,” Milan Lukic responded. “I am no killer…you are the only hope and the last chance … to have the truth established.”

He then referred to the recent discovery of hundreds of human bones in Perucac lake, a reservoir on the Drina river which runs through Visegrad. He said that “nothing is known about these bones” but he is still being implicated in media reports about them.

Trial judges found that Milan Lukic summarily executed 12 Bosniak men on the banks of the Drina in June 1992. In addition, during his trial several witnesses testified that Bosniak civilians were routinely taken to the river, shot and then thrown into the water, leaving it clogged with bodies.

Milan Lukic said that the media reports also refer to him as a leader of a group called the White Eagles, even though trial judges found there was not enough evidence to connect Lukic or his crimes to the paramilitary group.

“Even the trial chamber had to conclude that I was no commander or leader of any paramilitary formation,” he said.

He asked that judges allow him to address the media about these issues, which would “contribute to truth and justice, and give me the strength to fight and prove my innocence”.

“Mr Milan Lukic, would you be kind enough to talk to us [about] your detention conditions and physical and mental state of health? And could you please try to be brief?” asked Judge Guney after the defendant had finished speaking.

“Your honour, the media is lynching me, so I can’t feel well,” Milan Lukic responded. “They keep circulating lies about me….I am asking you to allow me to defend myself, your honour. My request is modest and minor and I hope you will have understanding for this request. Thank you for allowing me to address [the court.] Once we have an appeals hearing I will have a lot to say publicly.”

“I take note of your concerns you’ve just informed us about,” Judge Guney said. “Thank you for your cooperation. Mr Sredoje Lukic, would you like to raise any issues about your detention or your state of health?”

“Everything is fine and there are no problems whatsoever,” Sredoje Lukic replied.

Judge Guney noted that Milan Lukic’s defence team had previously filed three confidential motions in which they asked to present additional evidence for the appeal. The chamber will issue a decision on these requests prior to the appeals hearing, Judge Guney said.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

View the original article here

No comments: