Jamaica’s Justice Panton happy with stint on panel that rejects appeal by ‘Bosnian Butcher’

Retired President of Jamaica’s Court of Appeal, Justice Seymour Panton, one of five judges who dismissed an appeal last Tuesday, lodged by former Bosnia and Herzegovina tyrant Ratko Mladic in The Hague, Netherlands, has praised the experience he acquired while dealing with the matter remotely.

Justice Panton is a member of the Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminals Tribunals.

Hearing the matter alongside Justice Panton were presiding Judge Prisca Matimba Nyambe, Judge Aminatta Lois Runeni N’gum, Judge Elizabeth Ibanda-Nahamya, and Judge Mustapha El Baaj.

“It is an honour to be among the 25 judges appointed by the secretary general of the United Nations to serve on the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals,” Justice Panton told the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview at the end of the proceedings last week.

“I was first appointed to this non-salaried position in 2016 by former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and I have been reappointed by his successor Antonio Guterres. The appointment has extended my judicial career which began in 1978 – ten years after my call to the Bar.

“It is an honour not only for me, but also, I think, for Jamaica,” the highly respected jurist stated.

While not going into the specifics of the matter in The Netherlands, Justice Panton expressed delight with how the process was conducted.

“As regards the recently concluded matter, I do not think it would be appropriate for me to comment on the case itself so soon after my participation in the appellate proceedings. That must await my memoirs. However, I must say that it was a great experience working remotely with my colleagues. We had very good support from the very competent legal, administrative and technical teams based in The Hague.

“I look forward to our continuing efforts to dispose of the residual matters from the former criminal tribunals,” he stated.

Justice Panton was, like National Hero and former Prime Minister Sir Alexander Bustamante, born at Blemheim, Hanover, and attended Green Island Elementary, and Rusea’s High School. He served as head boy at Rusea’s, and captained that school in Headley Cup cricket in 1964.

He is chairman of Jamaica’s Integrity Commission, and also chairs the Integrity Commission of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

During Justice Panton’s many years on the Jamaican bench, he served as a resident magistrate between 1978 and 1986, a judge of the Supreme Court from 1986 to 1999, sat as a member of the Court of Appeal from 1999 to 2007, and served as its president from 2007 until his retirement in 2016.

Mladic was charged with two counts of genocide and nine crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, where around 100,000 people were killed and another 2.2 million displaced. He was found not guilty on one charge of genocide, but received a guilty verdict on each of the other 10 counts.

Mladic, 79, was sentenced to life in prison in 2017 after being found guilty of genocide for atrocities committed during the Bosnian war from 1992 to 1995.

Last Tuesday’s decision brought to an end the last major Balkan war crimes trial before a United Nations court.

A statement from the court said that “Mladi and the Prosecution had filed cases against the judgement rendered on 22 November 2017 by a Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

“Mladi, the former Commander of the Main Staff of the Army of Republika Srpska from 12 May 1992 until November 1996, was convicted by the Trial Chamber of genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of the laws or customs of war, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

“The Trial Chamber found that Mladi committed these crimes through his ‘leading and grave role’ in four joint criminal enterprises: (i) the ‘Overarching JCE’, aiming to permanently remove Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory in Bosnia and Herzegovina between May 1992 and November 1995; (ii) the ‘Sarajevo JCE’, aiming to spread terror among the civilian population of Sarajevo through a campaign of sniping and shelling between May 1992 and November 1995; (iii) the ‘Srebrenica JCE’, aiming to eliminate the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica between July and at least October 1995; and (iv) the ‘Hostage-Taking JCE’, aiming to capture UN Protection Force and UN Military Observer(s) personnel deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina and detain them in strategic military locations to prevent the North Atlantic Treaty Organization from launching further air strikes against Bosnian Serb military targets from May to June 1995.

“The Trial Chamber acquitted Mladi of genocide under Count 1 of the Indictment in relation to crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats in certain municipalities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“ The Appeals Chamber unanimously dismissed Mladi’s appeal in relation to the Hostage-Taking JCE and dismissed his appeal in relation to the Overarching JCE, the Sarajevo JCE, the Srebrenica JCE, as well as arguments related to his fair trial rights with Judge Nyambe dissenting.

“The Appeals Chamber affirmed his convictions pursuant to Articles 7(1) the ICTY Statute for genocide, for persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, and other inhumane acts (forcible transfer) as crimes against humanity, as well as for murder, terror, unlawful attacks on civilians, and hostage-taking as violations of the laws or customs of war under Counts 2 to 11 of the Indictment.

“The Appeals Chamber dismissed the Prosecution’s appeal in its entirety, with Judges N’gum and Panton dissenting, and accordingly affirmed the Trial Chamber finding that Mladi was not guilty of genocide under Count 1 of the Indictment in relation to crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats in certain municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The Appeals Chamber affirmed the sentence of life imprisonment imposed on Mladi by the Trial Chamber, with Judge Nyambe dissenting.”

Since Mladic’s conviction, his daughter Ana committed suicide as a result of the atrocities that he was involved in. He had applied for time away from the trial to visit his daughter’s grave, but that too was dismissed by the court.

Known as the ‘Butcher of Bosnia’, Mladic will now have to serve his life sentence.

The original trial began in 2012 at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, specially set up to prosecute crimes committed during the Balkans conflict.

The European Union said in its response to the court’s decision that the appeal’s tribunal’s decision “brings to an end a key trial in Europe’s recent history for war crimes, including genocide, which took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Mladic, originally from Kalnovik, Yugoslavia was born on March 12, 1942.

He joined the Yugoslav Community Party in 1965, shortly after his graduation from military academy and was made Commander of the Main Staff of the Army of the Bosnian-Serb Republic (“VRS”) in 1992. He led the siege of Sarajevo, where his heavily armed forces cut the city off from the outside world.

Serb forces attacked the city from higher ground, trapping Sarajevo’s residents in the valley below. More than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, died.

Mladic was accused of orchestrating a campaign of ethnic cleansing, including the slaughter of thousands of Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995. It is the worst massacre to have taken place in Europe since the Second World War.

After the war ended in 1995, Mladic went into hiding before being found 16 years later when police burst into the garden of a small house in northern Serbia.

He was cornered with two handguns, but opted to surrender and was later extradited to The Netherlands for trial in 2012.

The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism) was established by UN Security Council Resolution 1966 (2010) to complete the remaining work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which closed in 2015 and 2017, respectively.

The Mechanism has two branches, one in Arusha, Tanzania, and one in The Hague, Netherlands.


– CNN also provided information in this report.

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