French court awards damages against Serb ex-leaders

14th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

A French court Monday found former Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Biljana Plavsic guilty of wartime abuses against a Bosnian family in 1992 and awarded the victims 200,000 euros' damages.

The French court awarded the compensation (worth $280,000) to Adil and Zuhra Kovac and their children, who fled to France having escaped from Bosnia after being attacked in their house at the start of the 1992-1995 war.

The court heard that attackers swooped on the family's house near Foca, southeastern Bosnia, and beat up Adil Kovac before locking the family in the house and dousing it with petrol, threatening to set it alight.

The attackers then left without setting the house on fire. The family fled into the woods and were chased again by their assailants who cut the throat of the grandmother and shot the Kovac's son twice in the leg.

The court said in its ruling that Karadzic and Plavsic were "responsible for the harm suffered... due to crimes against humanity committed from April 1992 in Bosnia-Hercegovina." It awarded the damages for Adil Kovac's injuries.

The family was helped to escape to France by a French aid group and spent six years waging its case in the French courts, until Monday's ruling against the leaders in their absence.

Karadzic is on trial at the International Criminal Court accused of genocide during the war in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995.

Plavsic, 79, who was part of the three-member Bosnian Serb presidency in 1992-1993, served six years of an 11-year sentence for war crimes and was granted early release in 2009.

The French court on Monday declined to give a judgement on the third person targeted by the Kovac's suit: Bosnian Serb wartime military chief Ratko Mladic, who is on the run, also accused of genocide. It cited a lack of evidence.

The family had sued for a million euros against the three leaders plus another Serb former leader, Momcilo Krajisnik, but the French court said it was not qualified to hear the case against him.

© 2011 AFP

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