War Crimes Court Gives Bosnian Serb Life
War Crimes Court Gives Bosnian Serb Life
1 hour, 2 minutes ago
By ANTHONY DEUTSCH, Associated Press Writer
THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The U.N. war crimes tribunal sentenced a prominent Bosnian Serb politician to life imprisonment Thursday for exterminating and persecuting Bosnian Muslims, but acquitted him of genocide.
It was the first time in the court's 10-year history that a life sentence was been passed.
Milomir Stakic, a 41-year-old doctor, was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for establishing a network of brutal prison camps where hundreds of Muslims were killed and thousands tortured, raped or treated with extreme brutality in 1992.
" Dr. Milomar Stakic is hereby sentenced to life imprisonment," said Judge Wolfgang Schomburg, reading the verdict as Stakic stood, looking stunned. The court said he would be eligible for parole in 20 years.
Although it has never been imposed before, Schomburg said the maximum penalty was "not restricted to the most serious crime" of genocide.
It was the third time the court has handed down an acquittal of genocide charges, the most serious crime to come before the court and the hardest to prove. The court has convicted only one person, Bosnian general Radislav Krstic, of genocide.
The balding, bearded Stakic had faced two counts of genocide and six counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes for the murder, rape and torture administered in the camps set up in the Prijedor region of northwestern Bosnia during the summer of 1992.
The outcome was being watched closely for its possible influence on the war crimes trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who also faces two counts of genocide among the 66 charges against him.
Without referring to the Milosevic case, however, the judge said the genocide ruling applied only to Stakic and should not mean another trial cannot reach another conclusion when presented with other evidence.
To prove genocide, the prosecution must prove a prior intent to destroy an ethnic group wholly or in part.
The Milosevic trial has been adjourned until Aug. 25 because of concerns about his health.
The court said that as the top administrator of the Prijedor region, Stakic was responsible for the atrocities committed there.
He presided over establishment of two notorious detention centers where thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Croats were held captive until international exposure forced the Serbs to close them.
Stakic's indictment listed specific incidents of murder and brutality, such as the killing of 120 people taken in two buses from the Keraterm and Omarska camps in August 1992, the month the camps were closed.
Stakic has been at the tribunal's detention unit since he was handed over by Serb authorities in March 2001. In the seven months of hearings that ended last April, 101 witnesses testified.
Stakic claims he was a "marionette" in Bosnian Serb wartime politics and had no real power.
But the court ruled that he actively carried out his duties as president of the Prijedor administration, signing orders that perpetuated hatred of non-Serbs and assisting military campaigns of "ethnic cleansing" of tens of thousands of civilians.
By conservative estimate, more than 20,000 people were deported from the Prijedor region as part of a policy of ethnic cleansing, the judge said.
Both sides will have two weeks to file an appeal of the judgment by the three-member panel of judges. The U.N. tribunal cannot impose the death penalty.
In the only previous conviction of genocide by the Yugoslav court, Krstic was sentenced to 46 years in prison for his role in the July 1995 killings of at least 7,500 Bosnian Muslims in the enclave of Srebrenica, then a U.N. protected zone.
Until Thursday, Krstic's was the longest sentence imposed by the court.
The court's two most-wanted suspects, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and wartime military commander Ratko Mladic, were also indicted on genocide charges for the massacres.
- VICTORIA BECKHAM
- SARAJEVO - BiH
- Mervana Jugić-Salkić ( 24-5 )