Hostage-taking

Notion(s) Filing Case
Decision on Denial of Judgement of Acquittal - 11.12.2012 KARADŽIĆ Radovan
(IT-95-5/18-AR73.9)

17. Karadžić suggests that the pre-announced intention to take enemy combatants hostage if certain conditions are not met allows a military force to assume control over these individuals in a way that completes the crime of hostage-taking without triggering the protections of Common Article 3.[1] However, Karadžić does not identify any aspect of the text or history of Common Article 3 or any jurisprudence supporting his contention that in particular circumstances, detention of combatants falls outside the scope of Common Article 3 protections. Karadžić cites the Sesay Judgement, rendered by the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone,[2] which does not contradict the Appeals Chamber’s analysis here, because, even if the act of hostage-taking was completed upon the detention of the UN Personnel, as Karadžić asserts,[3] their detention by Bosnian Serb forces still triggered the protections of Common Article 3. 

18. Insofar as Karadžić asserts that the prohibition on hostage-taking is less broad than other prohibitions in Common Article 3, that contention contravenes the Appeals Chamber’s holding that “[t]]he prohibition of hostage-taking shares the very same scope of application with the remaining rules enshrined in [C]]ommon Article 3.”[4] Furthermore, Karadžić’s interpretation of Common Article 3 would allow for situations where detainees could not be assured of basic protections. This risks undermining a fundamental purpose of Common Article 3: providing minimum and absolute protections to detained individuals, whether combatants or not.[5]

19. Karadžić is unconvincing in suggesting that the Impugned Decision is erroneous because it renders the Chapeau Requirement of Common Article 3 superfluous.[6] The Appeals Chamber recalls that the Impugned Decision addresses only one aspect of Common Article 3’s protections: the taking of hostages.[7] However, Common Article 3’s protections extend beyond hostage-taking and are also triggered in circumstances other than when an individual is detained and thus placed hors de combat. The Chapeau Requirement is indisputably meaningful and relevant to the other crimes prohibited under Common Article 3. For example, a sick soldier who has laid down his arms or is unable to fight because of sickness is a “[p]erson[] taking no active part in the hostilities” under Common Article 3 and may not be murdered or subjected to humiliating treatment; the Impugned Decision does not purport to apply to, nor does it affect, such situations.

20. Karadžić also fails to explain his assertion that considering all detained combatants to be hors de combat would render all detentions of combatants unlawful.[8] The fact that detainees are considered hors de combat does not render their detention unlawful in itself. Rather, their hors de combat status triggers Common Article 3’s protections, including the prohibition on their use as hostages. Likewise unconvincing is Karadžić’s argument that the similarity of his actions to those allegedly taken by UN troops at the same time as Bosnian Serb forces detained the UN Personnel somehow proves the lawfulness of Karadžić’s actions.[9] Karadžić’s speculative allegations on actions supposedly taken by UN troops are not relevant to Karadžić’s individual criminal responsibility, nor do they demonstrate any error in the Trial Chamber’s analysis about the UN Personnel’s hors de combat status after their detention.

21. Accordingly, the Appeals Chamber holds that Common Article 3’s prohibition on hostage‑taking applies to all detained individuals, irrespective of whether their detention is explicitly sought in order to use them as hostages and irrespective of their prior status as combatants. Karadžić has not demonstrated that the Trial Chamber erred in finding that “even if the UN [P]]ersonnel were combatants immediately before their detention, they were rendered ‘hors de combat’ by virtue of their detention and thus were entitled to the minimum protections guaranteed by Common Article 3.”[10]

[1] See Appeal [Prosecutor v. Radovan Karadžić, Case No. IT-95-5/18-AR73.9, Appeal from Denial of Judgement of Acquittal for Hostage Taking, 25 July 2012]], paras 36-40; Reply [Prosecutor v. Radovan Karadžić, Case No. IT-95-5/18-AR73.9, Reply Brief: Appeal from Denial of Judgement of Acquittal for Hostage Taking, 10 August 2012]], para. 4.

[2] Appeal, para. 39, quoting Prosecutor v. Issa Hassan Sesay et al., Case No. SCSL-04-15-A, Judgment, 26 October 2009 […]], para. 597.

[3] See Appeal, paras 36-40.

[4] 2009 Hostage Decision, para. 26.

[5] See 2009 Hostage Decision, paras 21, 23, 25-26.

[6] Appeal, para. 38; Reply, para. 13.

[7] SeeT. 28 June 2012 pp. 28735-28738.

[8] Reply, para. 12.

[9] See Reply, paras 14-16.

[10]T. 28 June 2012 p. 28735 (emphasis added).

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