Seven Bosnian Serbs convicted for Srebrenica massacre (Lead)

June 10th, 2010 - 11:33 pm ICT by IANS  

The Hague, June 10 (DPA) A United Nations court Thursday found three former Bosnian Serb officers guilty of genocide and convicted four others for their role in Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II - the massacre in 1995 of thousands of Muslim men in Bosnia enclave of
Srebrenica.

A total of 5,300 exhibits were admitted and 315 witnesses were heard during the four-year trial, the biggest to date at the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

(ICTY).

Vujadin Popovic and Ljubisa Beara, then chiefs of security of the Drina Corps of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS), were both found guilty of genocide, extermination, murder and persecution and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Judges said Popovic knew of and shared plans by Bosnian Serb forces to eliminate Muslims living in the area and that Beara was the “driving force” behind the exterminations.

Drago Nikolic, a high-ranking officer in the Zvornik Brigade, was found guilty of aiding and abetting genocide, extermination, murder and persecution, and sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment.

Ljubomir Borovcanin, a senior police officer, and three others were found guilty of a variety of crimes, including inhumane acts and deportation, and were handed prison sentences ranging from 19 to five years.

“The scale and nature of the murder operation, with the staggering number of killings, the systematic and organised manner in which it was carried out, the targeting and relentless pursuit of the victims, and the plain intention - apparent from the evidence - to eliminate every Bosnian Muslim male who was captured or surrendered proves beyond reasonable doubt that this was genocide,” judges said.

Judges at the ICTY said a total of 5,336 victims had been identified at Srebrenica, but that the true number of men and boys killed in the Muslim enclave was likely to be in excess of 7,800.

The executions took place between July 13 and 23, 1995, after Bosnian Serb forces overran Dutch peacekeepers in the UN-protected zones of Srebrenica and Zepa.

“In the context of the war in the former Yugoslavia, and in the context of human history, these events are arrestive in their scale and brutality,” judges said.

Hatidza Mehmedovic of the Mothers of Srebrenica - a group representing the relatives of the victims - said the ICTY judges should have issued harsher verdicts.

Speaking in Sarajevo, Mehmedovic said she felt “humiliated and bitter”, adding that “even life in prison is no satisfaction for the surviving victims.”

But Dusan Ignjatovic, head of Serbia’s National council for cooperation with the Hague tribunal, said he hoped the ruling would help the victims find their peace.

“A terrible crime of large proportions happened in Srebrenica” and that should not be forgotten, he said.

But Serbia’s opposition Radical Party complained that the ruling was a first “bitter fruit” of a recent decision by the country’s parliament to acknowledge and condemn the Srebrenica Massacre.

Thursday’s verdict was expected to damage Radovan Karadzic - who is currently on trial in The Hague - since the trial chamber found that the former Bosnian Serb leader had issued, in march 1995, the “Supreme Command Directive” which was to result in “the widespread and systematic attack” against the enclave’s civilian population.

The ICTY has so far indicted 21 individuals for crimes committed in Srebrenica. Among these are Radislav Krstic, who was the first defendant to be convicted of aiding and abetting genocide in

Srebrenica, in August 2001.

Ratko Mladic, the war-time leader of the Bosnian Serb Army also charged with genocide in Srebrenica, remains a fugitive.

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