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.

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