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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-09-06

The UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague on Tuesday found Serbia's former army chief Momcilo Perisic guilty of murder, persecution and attacks on civilians, including at Srebrenica in 1995. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison.

AFP - A UN war crimes court sentenced ex-Yugoslav army chief Momcilo Perisic to 27 years in jail Tuesday for helping the Bosnian Serb army murder and persecute Bosnian Muslims including at Srebrenica in 1995.

Perisic, 67, the Yugoslavian army's highest-ranking officer, was found guilty of 12 of 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed including at Srebrenica, scene of Europe's worst wartime atrocity since World War II, and the shelling and sniping of the Bosnian Serb capital Sarajevo during its infamous siege from 1992-95.

Bakone Moloto, presiding judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said Perisic knew the Bosnian Serb army's actions "encompassed grave crimes against the civilian population".

Yet the former chief-of-staff gave personnel, officers, weapons and logistical support to the Bosnian Serb army (VRS) as well as the self-proclaimed Republic of Krajina's army (SVK), knowing it would be used to wage war and commit crimes against civilians, the judge told the court.

In 1994, the Yugoslav army supplied more than 7,500 shells and over 25 million infantry bullets.

Judges found Perisic guilty on four charges at Srebrenica, where some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered after the UN-protected enclave was overrun, as well as the 44-month sniping and shelling siege of Sarajevo.

Perisic "was aware that the VRS was conducting a campaign of sniping and shelling during the siege of Sarajevo," the judges said.

Moloto, clearing Perisic on a count of extermination at Srebrenica, said however the former general "could not have foreseen" that the Bosnian Serb army would exterminate Muslims after the UN-protected enclave fell. Yet after learning of the massacre he still provided support for the Serb troops.

"You kept providing assistance to the VRS for months after being informed of the VRS's enormous massacre in Srebrenica," the judge said.

Prosecutors in March asked for life imprisonment against Perisic, a close collaborator of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic who died in his Hague detention cell in 2006.

Perisic is the only senior Yugoslav official to be sentenced before the court for the Srebrenica massacre after Milosevic, also implicated in the mass killings, died mid-trial.

The 18 other defendants for their role at Srebrenica are mainly Bosnian Serbs including former army chief Ratko Mladic, the court's most-wanted man until his arrest in May.

Judge Moloto said although Perisic had a "collaborative relationship" with Mladic and substantially helped his operations, "the evidence does not establish that he exercised effective control over him."

Mladic, the judge added, maintained a measure of independence throughout the war.

Perisic's subordinate, Mladic, 69, was arrested on May 26 in northeastern Serbia after 16 years on the run.

The man also referred to as the "Butcher of Bosnia" is waiting for his trial to start before the ICTY on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Some of Perisic's other former subordinates have already been tried before the ICTY including former VRS general Stanislav Galic, sentenced on appeal to life in prison in November 2006 for conducting a campaign of "terror against the civilian population" during the siege of Sarajevo.

Perisic's lawyer Gregor Guy-Smith said Tuesday his client was disappointed with the judgement adding "we will file an appeal and it will be a vigorous a robust one."

"Waging a war is not a crime," Guy-Smith added, saying "in the context of international law, this is a fundamental principle that has to be examined."




Date created : 2011-09-06


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