- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2001

THE HAGUE — The U.N. war-crimes tribunal found a Bosnian Serb general guilty of genocide yesterday for the killings of up to 8,000 Muslims at the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica in 1995. It was the first such conviction in Europe since genocide became a crime under international law 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, 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 the Holocaust. 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 sat with him during the 90-minute session.
Defense attorney Nenad Petrusic said Krstic will appeal both the 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. Gen. 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 court, the tribunal said a deliberate decision had been made to kill all the men of Srebrenica after Serbian forces seized the strategic town in eastern Bosnia, overrunning a Dutch U.N. garrison, and deported thousands of women, children and old people.
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 in a warehouse while Serbian troops pumped in machine-gun fire and lobbed grenades.
The incident has been recognized as one of the most humiliating failures in U.N. history. The United Nations had initially offered the Muslims a safe haven if they would give up their guns, but went ahead anyway when the Muslims refused to disarm.
About 150 lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers were sent to man observation posts in the village, where from the beginning they were outnumbered and underarmed.
When the Serbian military forces breached the perimeter of the safe area, the blue-helmeted peacekeepers stood aside as the Serbs separated out the women and children and began killing the men.
The verdict gave lengthy descriptions of several mass executions of Muslim men, who often had their hands bound and their eyes covered.
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," Mr. Rodrigues said in a somber voice.
Staff writer Betsy Pisik in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide