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Serb Sentenced for War Crimes

A U.N. tribunal gives Momcilo Krajisnik 27 years in prison but acquits the former Bosnian political leader of genocide charges.

September 28, 2006|From the Associated Press

THE HAGUE — A United Nations tribunal sentenced the former speaker of the Bosnian Serbs' self-styled parliament Wednesday to 27 years in prison for war crimes, but acquitted him of genocide.

Momcilo Krajisnik, 61, one of the highest-ranking politicians in wartime Bosnia-Herzegovina, was convicted of five counts, including persecution, extermination and murder of Muslims and Croats in the early stages of the 1992-95 Bosnian war, which left more than 200,000 dead.

In its verdict, the court said Krajisnik "knew about and intended the mass detention and expulsion of civilians."

Presiding Judge Alphons Orie said the tribunal was unconvinced by the prosecution's argument that the Bosnian Serb leadership had deliberately intended to destroy the non-Serb population -- a key element in winning a conviction for genocide, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Krajisnik's case was one of the most important remaining for the tribunal, which is expected to begin its last trial in 2008.

The two remaining key suspects indicted on genocide charges, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and former army Gen. Ratko Mladic, are fugitives.

Victims of the war called the sentence too lenient.

"It's a minimal punishment for what he has done," said Zumra Sehomerovic of the Mothers of Srebrenica, a group of women who lost their children in the 1995 massacre of as many as 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the eastern town of Srebrenica.

Several members of Krajisnik's family were in court.

"I know my brother is certainly not guilty, at least not to such an extent," Mirko Krajisnik said.

Serbs in Bosnia said the verdict was too harsh.

Krajisnik's lawyers had asked for an acquittal. They will appeal the verdict.

Another figure in the Bosnian Serb leadership, Biljana Plavsic, confessed to promoting a campaign of murder, rape and torture and is serving an 11-year sentence. She testified unwillingly against Krajisnik, saying he wielded almost as much power as Karadzic.

The court has ruled in other cases that genocide occurred at Srebrenica. But Krajisnik's case covered only the early stages of the war, when ethnic Serbs seized two-thirds of the territory in Bosnia and evicted non-Serbs.

"Krajisnik wanted the Muslim and Croat populations moved out of Bosnian Serb territories in large numbers, and accepted that a heavy price of suffering, death and destruction was necessary to achieve Serb domination and a viable statehood," the tribunal said.

"One man had his ear cut off, others had their fingers cut off, and at least two men were sexually mutilated," the court said in describing actions at Zvornik, one of dozens of towns named in the indictment.

Taken together, what was done to Muslims and Croats in Bosnia would be enough to constitute genocide, but "the chamber has not received sufficient evidence to establish whether the perpetrators had genocidal intent," Orie said.

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