Bosnian Serb general convicted

A former Bosnian Serb general was convicted Wednesday of orchestrating months of deadly shelling and sniping of civilians during the notorious siege of Sarajevo and sentenced to 33 years imprisonment.

Bosnian Serb general convicted
Troops commanded by Gen. Dragomir Milosevic killed Sarajevo residents as young as 2 and as old as 80 in 1994 and 1995 with a lethal hail of snipers' bullets and mortar shells, the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal said.

"There was no safe place in Sarajevo," said Presiding Judge Patrick Robinson, reading from the judgment. "One could be killed and injured anywhere and any time."

The "evidence discloses a horrific tale of encirclement and entrapment of a city ... and its bombardment" by Bosnian Serb forces of the Sarajevo Romanija Corps, or SRK, under Milosevic's command, said the ruling by the U.N. court.

The 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital, which Milosevic oversaw for 15 months, was one of the longest and darkest chapters of the Balkan wars that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia, and was partly played out before an international audience on television.

Milosevic, 65, showed no emotion as he stood listening to the verdict and sentence. He was convicted of five charges, including leading a campaign of terror, murder and inhumane acts.

Milosevic, who commanded 18,000 Bosnian Serb troops who besieged Sarajevo between August 1994 and November 1995, had denied all charges, arguing that the city was a battleground during the siege and his troops were carrying out legitimate military operations.

Dragomir Milosevic is no relation to the former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 before his genocide trial could be completed.

Robinson said that as commander of the troops encircling the city, Dragomir Milosevic should have ensured they acted within the laws of war.

"But the evidence ... shows that the accused abused his position and that he ... planned and ordered gross and systematic violations of international humanitarian law," Robinson said.

Among atrocities carried out by Milosevic's troops was the shelling of Sarajevo's Markele Market on Aug. 28, 1995, which killed 34 and injured 78.

He also pioneered the use of a weapon called the modified air bomb — airplane bombs attached to rockets so they could be launched from the ground but that could not be accurately directed. The use of such indiscriminate weapons in a civilian area is illegal.

"Each time a modified air bomb was launched, the accused was playing with the lives of the civilians in Sarajevo," Robinson said.

"The effect of the modified air bombs was overwhelming in terms of injuries, deaths, destruction and the psychological impact on the civilian population," he added.

The three-judge U.N. panel also condemned Bosnian Serb sharpshooters who targeted the city — highlighting the repeated attacks on trams that had to crawl along so-called sniper alley past the city's Holiday Inn hotel.

"The tram and its passengers were virtually sitting ducks. Or, in the words of one witness, clay pigeons," Robinson said.

Milosevic, who turned himself in to the court three years ago, was indicted in 1998 along with Stanislav Galic, his predecessor as commander of the Bosnian Serb Army's Sarajevo Romanija Corps.

Galic was tried separately for his role in the Sarajevo siege. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years but that was raised to a life sentence by an appellate court in November 2006.

Prosecutors last year sought to have Milosevic's case transferred to a court in Bosnia as part of the U.N. tribunal's efforts to complete all its cases by 2010, but judges refused, saying the allegations were so serious Milosevic should be tried in The Hague.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 13 Aralık 2007, 10:15
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