Srebrenica Prison Sentences: 637 Years and Counting

11. July 2016.11:16
The Bosnian state court and the Hague Tribunal have sentenced 38 people to a total of 637 years in prison - plus three life sentences - for the atrocities committed 21 years ago against Srebrenica’s Bosniaks.

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The past year has seen yet more people convicted of involvement in the worst crime in Europe since World War II – the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces after the fall of the UN-protected ‘safe area’ of Srebrenica in July 1995.

The landmark verdict was the first-instance conviction of Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb president. Karadzic – currently the only politician to have been found guilty of genocide – was sentenced to 40 years in prison by the UN war crimes court in The Hague.

The verdict stated that in July 1995, armed forces under the control of Karadzic systematically killed “at least 5,115 Muslim men” from Srebrenica with the genocidal intent to destroy them as a group.

The Bosnian state court also handed down two verdicts this year in Srebrenica cases – a final verdict sentencing former Bosnian Serb soldier Srecko Boskovic to eight years in prison for crimes against civilians and a second verdict which acquitted Aleksandar Cvetkovic of genocide.

Boskovic was found guilty of killing a boy in July 1995 near Zvornik. “The defendant came up to the boy and said: ‘You are free, you can go.’ When the boy ran towards the woods, Boskovic shot him,” the verdict said.

Cvetkovic meanwhile was cleared of genocide for taking part in the killings of over 900 men from Srebrenica at a military farm in Branjevo. He was found not guilty because of a lack of evidence.

Also this year, the Bosnian court reduced the verdict sentencing Radomir Vukovic, who was convicted of assisting in the genocide, from 31 to 20 years in prison. The decision was made after the Bosnian constitutional court found that the wrong criminal code was used at Vukovic’s trial.

Vukovic is a former member of a Bosnian Serb special police unit who was found guilty of taking part in the killings of over 1,000 men and boys from Srebrenica in a warehouse in Kravica.

Since it started work 11 years ago, the Bosnian state court has sentenced 24 people to a total of 448 years in prison Srebrenica-related crimes.

Four people have been sentenced to a total of 30 or more years – Franc Kos, Zoran Goronja, Stanko Kojic and Dusko Jevic. Jevic was found guilty of taking part in the killings of Bosniak men in Kravica and the forcible transfer of women and children from Srebrenica, while the other three were convicted of involvement in the killings of around 900 Bosniaks in Branjevo.

The only person convicted of genocide by the Sarajevo-based court was former Bosnian Serb Army Zvornik Brigade officer Milorad Trbic, who was given the maximum penalty for the crime under the old Yugoslav criminal code, 20 years in prison.

Trbic was found guilty of taking part and assisting in the killings of Bosniaks at locations around Srebrenica – at the Branjevo farm, the cultural centre in Pilica, and schools in Orahovac, Rocevic and Petkovci.

“Trbic personally killed dozens of men in order to incite fear and to control other prisoners,” the court’s verdict stated.

Ruling that Trbic had genocidal intent, it added: “The chamber is aware that few people would admit they had the intention to destroy a group, but based on the evidence it is clear that the defendant had this intent.”

The UN tribunal in The Hague has convicted 14 people of Srebrenica-related crimes.

The first verdict finding that the Srebrenica massacres constituted genocide was handed down in 2004 to the former chief of staff/deputy commander of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Drina Corps, Radislav Krstic, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Three defendants have been given life sentences – two former officers at the Bosnian Serb Army’s main headquarters, Zdravko Tolimir and Ljubisa Beara, andformer Drina Corps commander Vujadin Popovic.

The only person to have been acquitted of Srebrenica-related crimes by the Hague court is former Yugoslav People’s Army officer Momcilo Perisic.

Former Bosnian Serb Army chief Ratko Mladic is still on trial for genocide. His case is now in its final stages, and defence and prosecution lawyers should present their final arguments in the autumn of this year.

Džana Brkanić

This post is also available in: Bosnian