Srebrenica commander faces verdict before UN court

12th December 2012, Comments 0 comments

The Yugoslav war crimes court will on Wednesday hand down its verdict against Bosnian Serb general Zdravko Tolimir on genocide charges for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

German judge Christoph Flugge is to read his judgement and sentencing before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia shortly after the hearing starts at 3:00 pm (1400 GMT) before the Hague-based tribunal.

Prosecutors want a life sentence for Tolimir, considered to be one of the right-hand men of the then Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic, who is also being tried by the court.

Conducting his own defence, Tolimir said that what happened at Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia in July 1995 was "fighting against terrorist groups", rather than the slaughter of almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys after Dutch peacekeepers at the "safe" enclave were overrun by Mladic's forces.

Now 64, Tolimir is accused of committing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Balkan country's bloody 1992 - 95 war that claimed 100,000 lives and left 2.2 million others homeless.

He faces eight counts including murder, forcible deportation relating to the attack on Srebrenica.

Prosecutors said the former intelligence chief was part of a grand scheme to murder thousands of Muslim men and boys and expel thousands of woman and children at the enclave in order to create a "mono-ethnic Serb state."

The prosecution also alleged that about 25,000 women, children and elderly people were forcibly transferred from the enclaves to Muslim-controlled territories, while thousands of men and boys old enough to bear arms were executed and dumped in mass graves.

Tolimir was involved in a "joint criminal enterprise" to "summarily execute and bury thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys aged 16 to 60 captured from the Srebrenica enclave," according to the charge sheet.

During the trial, prosecutors said Mladic relied on Tolimir to "carry out the slow strangling of the Srebrenica and Zepa enclaves" to create conditions which would force the Muslim population "to give up hope of survival."

Tolimir allegedly oversaw and authorised the officers who organised the Srebrenica slaughter.

He also stood accused of proposing to attack columns of Muslim civilians fleeing the war zone and proposing to use chemical weapons against Muslim fighters.

Tolimir is the most senior Serb to have a verdict handed down by the UN war crimes court since two Croatian generals and two former Kosovar guerrillas were acquitted last month, sparking Serbia's ire.

In 2004, Radislav Krstic became the highest-ranking Bosnian Serb officer to be sentenced on appeal to 35 years in jail for his role in the Srebrenica massacre.

Arrested in May 2007 in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Tolimir had seen his trial delayed several times due to ill health.

Mladic, also dubbed "the Butcher of Bosnia," was arrested in Serbia last year, and now faces 11 counts before the same Hague-based court, including for the Srebrenica massacre.


© 2012 AFP

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