Analysis 10 Jul 10

Srebrenica Sentences Total 476 Years

Those responsible for the killings of more than 7,000 men at Srebrenica have so far been sentenced to a total of 476 years in prison, including two life sentences.

BIRN - Justice Report

In the 15 years since the killings, 24 people have been brought to justice by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY.

Eighteen were originally indicted for genocide committed in this UN safe area, and so far three first instance verdicts for the crime have been handed down.

Others have been found guilty of aiding and abetting genocide including Radislav Krstic, former commander of the Drina Corps, and Drago Nikolic, former Chief of Security of the Zvornik Brigade. They received 35 years in prison.

“Horrendous crimes that were committed after the fall of Srebrenica are well known: the mass murder of more than 7,000 men and the forcible transfer of women, children and the elderly in this part of eastern Bosnia. These crimes were committed with such a degree of brutality and depravity that has not been previously seen and are among the darkest moments in modern European history,” reads the verdict in the case of Vidoje Blagojevic and Dragan Jokic, sentenced to 15 and 9 years respectively in January 2005 for crimes in Bratunac.

Among the longest sentence was the one given to Ljubisa Beara, former Chief of Security of the Main Staff of the Army of the Republic of Srpska,VRS. He was sentenced to life by the ICTY. Vujadin Popovic, former Chief of Security of the Drina Corps of the VRS, also got life after his ICTY trial, while the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina sentenced Milorad Trbic, former Assistant Chief of Security of the Zvornik Brigade, to 30 years.

Hague judges described Beara as the “driving force behind the killings”. They said he was the oldest officer in the security services and had the clearest picture of the scale of the killings.

“His energetic efforts to organise sites, hire personnel, provide the equipment and supervise the executions points to his steadfast determination to kill as many people as soon as possible. Beara was a man resolved to destroy the group by killing all of its members to which he could get,” the judges concluded.

Besides Beara, two others from the Main Staff of the VRS were also sentenced, Radivoje Miletic, Chief of the Department for Operations and the Administrative Officer, received 19 years. Milan Gvero, Assistant Commander for Morale, Legal and Religious Issues, was imprisoned for five years.

According to court judgments, more than 7,000 men were killed in different places in Srebrenica, while women and children were transported by buses to the territory under the control of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The majority of mass executions were at the warehouse in Kravica; schools in the villages of Orahovac, Petkovci and Rocevići; the House of Culture in Pilice; the Military Farming Cooperative in Branjevo; and the banks of the Drina River at Kozluk.
Some like Drazen Erdemovic, a member of the 10th Sabotage Detachment of the VRS, who admitted his crimes and was sentenced to five years in prison for participating in the killings at Branjevo Farm, expressed remorse.

“Buses were coming. They were getting out the men in the groups of 10. We started to shoot at them. I do not know whether these people looked at me. I do not know how many people I killed and I do not want to know. It destroyed me. I wanted to save one man, but we were not allowed. They said they did not want to have witnesses of the crimes,” said Erdemovic, admitting his guilt before the ICTY.

Dragan Obrenovic, a former Deputy Commander of the Zvornik Brigade, who was sentenced to 17 years, also expressed regret for his part in the killings at Branjevo.

“When I found out for the plan to kill prisoners, I took responsibility for it and supported the execution of the plan as acting commander of the Zvornik Brigade. (...) I thought long about it and the same thought is always follows me – the guilt. Thousands of innocent victims suffered. What were left are the graves, the refugees, everything is destroyed and it was a general disaster. I bear part of the responsibility for it,” he said in court.

Obrenovic was the deputy of Vinko Pandurevic, commander of the Zvornik Brigade, who is sentenced to 13 years in prison for crimes against humanity and whose verdict stated that he knew of the mass executions of the captured man in Zvornik.

“We knew that they were shooting people, there was no talk about exchange. When I saw children among the captives, I was not felling well because they did not set them aside. What kind of great Serb heroes we are when we shoot at children ...,” said Tanacko Tanic, a former member of the Zvornik Brigade, who testified about the crimes of his fellow soldiers before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The head of the Engineering Team in the Pandurevic’s brigade was Dragan Jokic. Jokic was on trial with Vidoje Blagojevic, commander of the Bratunac Brigade, who was sentenced for failing to prevent killings at the Vuk Karadzic school in Bratunac where at least 50 people died.

For this murder the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina also sentenced Mladen Blagojevic, a member of the Bratunac Military Police Brigade, to seven years.

Judges determined that Blagojevic and Jokic did not have “a major role in the execution of crimes”, but that the “practical assistance” they provided significantly contributed to the carrying out of the genocide.

The Court made a similar conclusion when it came to the responsibility of Ljubomir Borovcanin, Commander of the Joint Forces of MUP RS, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison for failing to prevent killings committed by his subordinates. ICTY judges ruled
there was no evidence that Borovcanin knew of the plan of expulsion and murders, but that he contributed to its realisation.

Borovcanin, among others, had control over the Second Special Police Detachment from Sekovici, whose nine members were sentenced for aiding in the genocide before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The verdict found they were involved in the transferring of a column of Bosniaks to the Farming Cooperative in Kravica on July 13, 1995 and killing more than 1,000 men.

For these crimes, Milenko Trifunovic was sentenced to 33 years in prison; Brano Dzinic and Aleksandar Radovanovic got 32 years; Petar Mitrovic, Slobodan Jakovljevic and Branislav Medan received 28 years; and Zoran Vukovic and Radomir Tomic got 31 years.

Vaso Todorovic, who pleaded guilty to the crimes, told the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina that Borovčanin came to Kravica when the shooting began and did nothing to stop it. Hague judges came to similar conclusions, saying in the verdict, “the first and only step that is taken by Borovcanin after he saw the traces of the shooting were that along with his men he left the warehouse in Kravica as quickly as possible”.

And the trials continue for crimes at Srebrenica.

Seven former members of the army and police of the RS who are indicted for genocide are currently appearing before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Radovan Karadzic, former President of the RS, and Zdravko Tolimir, Deputy Commander of the VRS Main Staff for Intelligence and Security Affairs, are both indicted for genocide in The Hague. Also on trial in The Hague for crimes at Srebrenica are Momcilo Perisic, Chief of Staff of the Yugoslav Army, and Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatović, chiefs of the Serbian State Security.

Indicted by the ICTY is Ratko Mladic, former Chief of Staff of the VRS. He has been on the run for more than a decade.


Also see: Srebrenica's days of hell  

Srebrenica: Genocide reconstructed

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