Former Serbian general and Chief of the General Staff of the Yugoslav Army Momčilo Perišić was declared guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity on 6 September 2011. The judgement is an historic accomplishment for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) : Perišić is the highest-ranking official of the former army to be convicted and the first conviction an official for crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Perišić, one of the Tribunal’s last indicted, voluntarily surrendered in March 2005 and pleaded not guilty. He assisted Belgrade’s war efforts by providing personnel, weapons, cash and logistics to help Bosnian Serb and Croatian Serb armies, and, most notably, provided Yugoslav army soldiers to Serb forces in Bosnia to aid in the 44-month siege of Sarajevo. He further provided troops to aid the self-proclaimed Croatian Serb enclave of Krajina. Such assistance resulted in the 1995 Srebenica massacre, where approximately 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were murdered. The judgement criticized the army for consistently failing to distinguish civilian and military targets and targeting Bosnian Muslim civilians as a matter of course. Judge Bakone Moloto sentenced Perišić to 27 years in prison for aiding and abetting murder, persecution, attacks on civilians, and failing to punish troops for their crimes of murder and attacks on civilians during the 1995 rocket attacks on Zagreb. Perišić is 67 years old.
The Tribunal did, however, acquit him of aiding and abetting extermination in Srebenica, as well as of command responsibility in relation to crimes committed in Sarajevo and Srebenica under Article 7(3) of the ICTY Statute. The evidence had not established beyond reasonable doubt that a superior-subordinate relationship existed between him and the troops who committed the crimes. According to the judgement, it could not be established that General Perišić could have foreseen that the military would engage in the systematic extermination of thousands of Muslims in Srebenica.
Judge Moloto dissented from the majority opinion, stating that providing assistance to the Bosnian Serb army was “too remote” from the crimes committed to qualify as aiding and abetting, and further, to provide assistance to wage war is not the same as aiding and abetting the crimes committed during war – to conclude otherwise “is to criminalise the waging of war which is not a crime under the Statute of the Tribunal.”