JCE: Just Convict Everyone?

02 March 2011 by Geraldine Coughlan

The former Serbian police chief, Vlastimir Djordjevic, 62, stood in silence and blinked as presiding Judge Kevin Parker passed sentence. Twenty-seven years in prison for participation in a joint criminal enterprise (JCE) whose aim was to change the ethnic balance in Kosovo, where Albanians make up a 90-percent majority. 

Judges said that Djordjevic played a crucial role in a JCE, headed by the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, that coordinated the murder, persecution and deportation of Kosovo Albanian civilians in 1999.

The judges said Djordjevic was criminally responsible for failing to prevent atrocities and punish Serbian troops for crimes in Kosovo. The defence had argued that there was no JCE and that the crimes were isolated incidents by Serbian forces against terrorists, therefore legitimate actions under customary international law.

The notion of JCE is controversial. It first appeared at the ICTY and is now applied by other international courts such as the SCSL and the ECCC. The JCE doctrine considers members of an organized group to be responsible for crimes committed by the group – for instance, if one person in a group of three, kills one person during a robbery, the law considers all three guilty of murder.

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

article
19 February 2007 by Laetitia Grotti

One year ago on January 6, 2006, the 17 members of Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) were closing up shop after submitting their final report to King Mohammed VI. The Moroccan truth commission had received a flood of compliments from the international community praising the recommendations in its report, especially those advocating legislative and constitutional reforms. One year later, however, the results have been rather mixed.

article
11 September 2006 by our correspondent in Arusha

After having tried high-ranking officers, ministers, businessmen, priests, journalists, local officials and militiamen, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is in uncharted waters. On September 11, the most famous rwandese troubadour of his generation will stand trial for genocide. 

article
23 October 2006 by Christine Chaumeau

China is keeping a polite distance from international criminal justice. Beijing is hardly disinterested, but China does want to make sure that these new global mechanisms are not going to infringe upon its sovereignty by delving into particularly sensitive cases such as Tibet. 

article
United Nations Operation in Burundi disarms rebel forces in Mbanda in February 2005 (Photo: Flickr/UN Photo/Martine Perret)
03 June 2015 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Over the last month, Burundi has hit the headlines as the president put himself forward to be elected for a controversial third term, resulting in street protests, thousands of refugees who fled instability and an attempted coup. Behind the issues of elections and constitutionalism are also those of justice following Burundi’s long-running civil war. The international community supported an intensive process of negotiation and the signing of the Arusha Accord in 2000. But in the decade and a half since, its provisions on justice have been debated though never fully implemented.

article
06 November 2006 by Pierre Hazan

France's attitude towards international criminal justice is marked by ambiguity. Paris subscribes to a vision of the world in which international humanitarian law is considered a way to curb violence against civilian populations, but at the same time it is wary of an unchecked judicial system that could end up prosecuting French soldiers engaged in areas where it has old and deep-rooted interests.