UN court orders life jail terms for Bosnia massacre

10th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

A UN war crimes court on Thursday sentenced two Bosnian Serbs to life in jail for genocide over their role in the Srebrenica massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in July 1995.

Vujadin Popovic, 53, and Ljubisa Beara, 70, were both officers in the Bosnian Serb army blamed for the massacre during the 1992-95 war that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Four other military officers and a police official found guilty of related offences were jailed for between five and 35 years.

The "only appropriate sentence... is life imprisonment," judge Carmel Agius told Popovic and Beara at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Beara was described by the court as the "driving force behind the murder enterprise," while Popovic's "robust participation" in the massacre demonstrated "he not only knew of this intent to destroy, he also shared it."

The prosecution had requested life imprisonment on September 2009 against all the accused for their role in the worst massacre in Europe since World War Two.

Beara, who had the rank of colonel, had been security chief in the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) and Popovic, a lieutenant-colonel, was security chief of the VRS's Drina Corps.

Ljubomir Borovcanin, 50, deputy commander of a special Bosnian Serb police unit, was sentenced to 17 years, Vinko Pandurevic, 50, commander of the brigade that led the Srebrenica attack, got 13 years and Drago Nikolic, 52, the brigade's chief of security, was given 35 years in jail.

The other two, Radivoje Miletic, 61, and Milan Gvero, 71, generals in the VRS high command, were jailed for 19 and five years respectively for crimes against humanity.

All seven had pleaded not guilty.

It was the largest trial conducted at the ICTY to date, with 315 people testifying in court proceedings that began in August 2006.

Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic, 64, is currently on trial on 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide charges including the Srebrenica massacre. He was arrested in July 2008 after 13 years on the run.

In recent months, Serbia has stepped up its efforts to arrest the Bosnian Serb wartime military commander Ratko Mladic, accused by the ICTY of masterminding the 44-month siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre.

Agius said at the beginning of Thursday's hearing that the number of those killed at Srebrenica, a UN-protected enclave overrun by Bosnian Serb forces, was estimated at 7,826.

© 2010 AFP

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