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Convicted Serb war criminal Mrksic dies

A former Serb army commander serving a 20-year sentence for his role in the massacre of Croats during the Balkans wars has died in Lisbon at the age of 68, the Portuguese government said Tuesday.

Mile Mrksic, a former officer in the Yugoslav army (JNA), was convicted in 2007 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for aiding and abetting the torture and murder of nearly 200 civilians in Vukovar in eastern Croatia in 1991.

His sentence by The Hague-based UN court was upheld on appeal in 2009, and he was transferred in 2012 to a high security prison in Lisbon.

Mrksic died on Sunday of a terminal illness in a hospital in the Portuguese capital, a justice ministry spokesman told AFP, without elaborating.

The capture of Vukovar by the Yugoslav army and Serb rebels in 1991 is considered a pivotal event at the outbreak of Croatia’s 1991-95 war of independence.

The town was razed and more than 1,000 civilians were killed during the three-month siege and its aftermath, while some 22,000 non-Serbs were expelled.

Mrksic was convicted over the killing of 194 people who had been forcibly taken from a hsopital where thousands of Croats and other non-Serbs had taken refuge.

Mrksic’s subordinate Veselin Slijivancanin, was sentenced by the ICTY to 10 years in prison for his role in the massacre, while a third defendant was acquitted.

About 20,000 people were killed in the war sparked by Croatia’s proclamation of independence from the former Yugoslavia.