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30 January 2015

Bosnian Serb Officers Jailed for Srebrenica Massacres

Denis Dzidic BIRN BiH Sarajevo
The Hague Tribunal rejected five former Bosnian Serb Army officers’ appeals against their convictions for war crimes including genocide against Bosniaks from Srebrenica in 1995.
The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on Friday upheld the convictions of former officers Vujadin Popovic, Ljubisa Beara, Drago Nikolic, Vinko Pandurevic and Radivoje Miletic for their involvement in the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

Popovic and Beara were sentenced to life in prison, Nikolic to 35 years and Pandurevic to 13 years. Miletic's sentence was reduced from 19 to 18 years as a result of the appeal against the original verdict in 2010.

Popovic and Beara were found guilty of committing genocide and joining with others in order to commit genocide when 7,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed in the days after the UN-declared ‘safe zone’ of Srebrenica was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces on July 11, 1995.

At the time, Popovic was chief of security with the Bosnian Serb Army’s Drina Corps, while Beara had the same role at the army’s main headquarters.

Nikolic, a security officer with the Zvornik Brigade, was convicted of assisting and supporting the commission of genocide. Pandurevic, commander of the Zvornik Brigade, was convicted of having assisted the crimes.

Miletic, a former assistant to Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic, was found guilty of murders, persecution and the forcible resettlement of people from Srebrenica and Zepa.

The court found that Bosniaks in eastern Bosnia were victims of a genocidal plan created by Bosnian Serb forces.

It was the first final verdict in which Bosnian Serb officers have been found guilty of the crime. Until now, only convictions for assisting genocide have been handed down.

“The first instance chamber [in 2010] believed that there was no need to convict [Beara and Popovic] of joining with others to commit genocide, because they were convicted of genocide. However, this chamber believes this is a mistake and believes they should be convicted of this charge in order for the verdict to reflect the true gravity of their crimes,” said presiding judge Patrick Robinson.

However Beara and Popovic were cleared of the murders of Bosniaks committed by members of the Scorpions paramilitary unit near Trnovo because there was no connection between them and the perpetrators.

Nikolic’s conviction of assisting genocide was upheld, as was Pandurevic’s for taking part in crimes against humanity.

The appeals chamber found however that Pandurevic did not intend to take part in the killings, but found him guilty of failing to stop or punish his subordinates.

Miletic’s sentence was reduced by a year because the appeals chamber found that the aggravating circumstances in his case were misjudged.

But judge Robinson said that the original trial had made no errors in the evidence presented, witness testimonies or the number of victims, as the defence appeals alleged.

In the original verdict, former Bosnian Serb special police unit commander Ljubomir Borovcanin was also sentenced to 17 years in prison, while another Mladic assistant, Milan Gvero, was sentenced to five years. However Borovcanin did not appeal against the verdict and Gvero died during the appeals procedure.
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