Vulnerability of the victims

Notion(s) Filing Case
Judgement on Sentencing Appeal - 20.07.2005 DERONJIĆ Miroslav

The Appellant argued that the vulnerability of the victims is already “subsumed in the overall gravity of the offence” and cannot be considered as an aggravating factor (para. 126).  The Appeals Chamber held the following:

127. While it is correct to say that the civilian status of the population against which the attack is directed is an element of crimes against humanity[1] and that therefore such status cannot be taken into account as an aggravating circumstance,[2] the Appeals Chamber notes that the issue before it is not whether the intrinsic vulnerability of civilians can be taken into account but rather whether there are additional elements amounting to particular circumstances showing that the victims were subjected to a special vulnerability.[3] In the present case, not only had the civilians been disarmed and denied any warning about their fate, but moreover had been deceived by a statement on the Appellant’s behalf into believing they were safe. These facts are not inherent in the population’s civilian status.

Accordingly, the Appeals Chamber accepted the Trial Chamber’s finding that “the exacerbated vulnerability and defencelessness of the victims was an aggravating circumstance.” (para. 128). 

[1] Blaškić Appeal Judgement, para. 107: “The Appeals Chamber considers that both the status of the victim as a civilian and the scale on which it is committed or the level of organization involved characterize a crime against humanity.”

[2] See Blaškić Appeal Judgement, para. 693: “where an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing is at the same time an element of the offence, it cannot also constitute an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing.” See also Vasiljević Appeal Judgement, paras 172-173.

[3] Mrđa Sentencing Judgement, para. 46 referring to Banović Sentencing Judgement, para. 50, and Dragan Nikolić Sentencing Judgement, para.184.

Download full document