- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2001

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) The U.N. war crimes tribunal found a Bosnian Serb general guilty of genocide today for the killing of up to 8,000 Muslims at the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica in 1995. It was the first genocide conviction in Europe since shortly after World War II.
Gen. Radislav Krstic, 53, was sentenced to 46 years in prison.
The court ruled that even though Krstic may have received orders from others to carry out mass executions of men and deportations of women and children, he bore responsibility for genocide.
“You were there, General Krstic,'' Judge Almiro Rodrigues said. “You were guilty of the murder of thousands of Bosnian Muslims. … In July 1995, General Krstic, you agreed to evil. This is why the trial chamber convicts you today and sentences you to 46 years in prison.''
The sentence was the longest delivered yet by the tribunal in any of the convictions it has handed down for the Balkan wars, and the first time it established that genocide was committed in the conflicts. But it fell short of the eight consecutive life sentences sought by the prosecution.
Weeping and holding hands while watching the U.N. court session on television in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Muslim women from Srebrenica screamed in outrage at the verdict today, furious at a sentence that they saw as too lenient.
“Let him go and come back among us. We will give him a verdict,'' said Behara Hasanovic. “For 10,000 of our sons, only 46 years! His people have ripped my son from my arms.''
The Srebrenica killings were Europe's worst civilian massacre since the persecution of Jews during World War II. And the genocide verdict etches the tragedy in the historical record much in the way the 1946 Nuremberg trials endure as an official condemnation of Nazi genocide in World War II. It could also act as a touchstone for further war crimes prosecutions.
Krstic sat grim-faced, his eyes growing wider during the more gruesome elements of the verdict. When it came time to hear the sentence, he was allowed to remain seated because of pain from his amputated leg.
After sentencing, Krstic swallowed once, rose and leaned on the table before hobbling out on crutches with the two guards who had sat with him during the 90-minute session.
Defense attorney Nenad Petrusic said Krstic will appeal both the guilty verdict and the length of the sentence.
Krstic had denied responsibility for the deaths and deportations, saying his superior officer, Gen. Ratko Mladic, had given the orders. But the tribunal ruled that Krstic, the most senior officer brought to trial so far, knew massacres were taking place. Mr. Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, then the Bosnian Serb political leader, have been indicted but remain at large.
In a lengthy summary of the verdict read in open court, the tribunal said a deliberate decision had been made to kill all the men of Srebrenica after Serb forces seized the strategic town in eastern Bosnia, overrunning a Dutch U.N. garrison, and deported thousands of women, children and old people.
“The result was inevitable the destruction of the Bosnian Muslim people in Srebrenica,'' said the verdict.
“What was ethnic cleansing became genocide,'' it said.
The U.N. tribunal for Rwanda, based in Arusha, Tanzania, has convicted eight people for genocide the court's harshest crime and handed down sentences of up to life imprisonment.
But the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia the same court trying former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic had yet to hand down a genocide conviction. Two previous cases were acquitted or dismissed.
The verdict gave lengthy descriptions of several mass executions of Muslim men, who often had their hands bound and their eyes covered.
In one incident, heavy earth-moving equipment was digging yawning graves even while captives were being gunned down. In another, up to 1,500 men were locked into a warehouse while Serb troops pumped in machine-gun fire and lobbed grenades. The next day, survivors were forced to sing Serb national songs before they were slaughtered, the verdict said.
Later, in an attempt to cover up the crimes, graves were dug up and the corpses hastily moved to new sites, some so crudely that parts fell away from the bodies, the court said.
According to expert testimony, “7,000 to 8,000 men were captured and almost all were killed by Serbian forces. Only a few survived, some of whom came here to testify,'' Judge Rodrigues said in a somber voice.
For the surviving women, the judge said, the men “were reduced to ghosts who return to haunt them day after day, night after night.''
The guilty verdict for Krstic was a strong indication that the two most wanted men still at large for the Bosnian conflict, Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Mladic, also are likely to face genocide convictions if they are brought to trial.
Prosecution spokeswoman Florence Hartmann called the verdict “very important to this tribunal. The accused got the longest sentence ever given and now it's clear for everyone that it's important that Karadzic and Mladic to be handed over immediately.''
Milosevic, who was transferred to the tribunal in June, is charged with crimes against humanity in Kosovo in 1999, but Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has said she is drawing up a further indictment for the Bosnian war that may also include genocide charges.
The tribunal's statutes define genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.'' Those acts include murder, inflicting living conditions designed to eliminate a group, preventing births or transferring children from one group to another.
The Yugoslav court was established in 1993 to punish those responsible for atrocities during the break up of Yugoslavia after the start of war in 1991.
Twenty-two Nazi commanders were tried at Nuremberg on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace. All were convicted and 13 were executed. The Yugoslav tribunal does not allow execution as a punishment.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide