Demand Investigation into Death Threats Against Journalists

Several journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina have received death threats and been subjected to hate speech after reporting about the final trial judgement in the case of Ratko Mladić and other former high-ranking officials. Civil Rights Defenders strongly condemns the recent harassment against journalists, and calls for an immediate investigation into the death threats and hate speech.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Photo: Julian Nitzsche, CC-BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

The final judgements in the cases of Mladic and Prlic et al. were delivered by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in late November this year. This also marked the end of the ICTY’s work which was scheduled to close on 31 December 2017. Mladić, former general of the Bosnian Serb army, was convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of the laws or customs of war. The Appeals Chamber found Prlic et al. guilty of crimes against humanity, violations of the laws or customs of war, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.

The verdicts have increased nationalistic tensions and hate speech in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has resulted in hate campaigns and serious threats against journalists who reported about the cases. According to Civil Rights Defenders’ partner, the BH Journalists’ Association, direct threats have been sent on Facebook and via email to a number of journalists who reported, and publicly expressed their opinion, about the final judgements.

General Ratko Mladic (centre) arrives for UN-mediated talks at Sarajevo airport, June 1993. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev

General Ratko Mladic (centre) was sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide on 22 November 2017. Photo: Mikhail Evstafiev, CC-BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

Among those who have received threats are Sanel Kajan from Al Jazeera Balkans, Štefica Galić, chief editor of online portal Tačno.net, Arijana Saračević Helać, chief editor of Federalna TV, Lejla Turčilo, professor at the Faculty of Political Science in Sarajevo.

Due to the authorities’ silence, and the lack of institutional reactions and condemnation, the threats and intimidation against journalists have continued since the verdicts, starting with the trial judgement of Mladić on 22 November. The harassment escalated and reached a new high with the final judgement in the case of Prlic et al. on 28 November, when Slobodan Praljak, who was among the convicted, committed suicide in the ICTY courtroom.

The BH Journalists’ Association has since expressed grave concerns over the organised outbursts of hate online, and the brutal insults towards everyone who has raised their voice and criticised the glorification of the crimes and convicted individuals.

Civil Rights Defenders and calls on the authorities to start immediate investigations into the death threats and hate speech against journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 “We requests the police and prosecutor to investigate promptly the death threats and intimidation against journalist, and to remember that impunity in these cases can lead to violations of the citizens’ right to information and freedom of expression. Moreover, we urge the political leaders to publicly condemn these acts, and to initiate a process of vetting and lustration of convicted war criminals from public offices in BiH. The glorification and celebration of war criminals by the public officials needs to end,” said Ena Bavčić, Programme Officer at Civil Rights Defenders.

Also read: Ratko Mladić Sentenced to Life in Prison for Genocide

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Background

Six former high-ranking officials from the wartime Croat entity of Herceg-Bosna were convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for crimes against humanity, violations of the laws or customs of war, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions committed between 1992 and 1994, through the joint criminal enterprise (JCE). The ICTY stated that “the ultimate purpose of JCE the was to create a Croat entity, mostly within the borders of the Croatian Banovina as it existed in 1939, to enable a unification of the Croatian people.”

 Four of the accused were found guilty of 22 counts of the indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and these are: Jadranko Prlić, former president of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment; Bruno Stojić, former head of the HVO department of defence to 20 years’; Milivoj Petković, chief of the HVO Main Staff to 20 years’; and Valentin Ćorić, chief of the Military Police Administration and later on Minister of the Interior to 16 years’. Ćorić was also found guilty of command responsibility for crimes committed in Prozor municipality in October 1992. Slobodan Praljak, former Assistant Minister of Defence of Croatia was convicted of 20 counts, and received a sentence of 20 years of imprisonment. Berislav Pušić, former president of the HVO commission in charge of the exchange of prisoners and other persons and head of the HVO Commission in charge of detention facilities, was convicted of 18 counts and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Categories: News and Statements.
Tags: ICTY, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and Ratko Mladic.