30 Mar 2013

Bosnian Serb jailed 45 years for war crimes

6:54 am on 30 March 2013

A former Bosnian Serb paramilitary leader, dubbed the Monster of Grbavica, has been jailed for 45 years for inflicting a reign of terror on Sarajevo civilians during the Bosnian civil war.

Judge Zoran Bozic told a packed courtroom in Sarajevo on Friday that Veselin Vlahovic committed crimes of murder, rape, torture, and robbery against Muslim and Croat civilians during the war from 1992-95.

Vlahovic was sentenced on all 60 counts in his indictment, committed the crimes between May and July 1992, in three Sarajevo neighbourhoods controlled by Serb forces during the war - Grbavica, Kovacici and Vraca and is the most severe delivered for war crimes by a Bosnian court, AFP reports.

"He killed 31 people, took 14 people who have still been considered missing, raped 13 women," prosecutor Behaija Krnjic said in a closing statement, having said earlier in the trial that Vlahovic's "name was the synonym for evil".

Vlahovic, who had pleaded not guilty at the start of the trial in April 2011, was charged with the "executions, enslavement, rape, physical and psychological torture" of Muslim and Croat civilians, as well as looting.

Calling for Vlahovic to be jailed for 45 years, Behaija Krnjic said: "Such a sentence would be the most just, but even that one will still be insufficient to heal the suffering of the victims."

A total of 112 prosecution witnesses were heard at the trial, including a number of women who testified behind closed doors to having been raped by Vlahovic.

During the trial Vlahovic insulted a witness, a local journalist who reported on his crimes during the war. He also sent an intimidating letter to the family of a victim, the prosecution said.

He was arrested in March 2010 as a suspect in a number of burglaries in the Spanish town of Altea where he was living under a fake Bulgarian identity. He was extradited to Bosnia in August that year.

Vlahovic showed no reaction when the verdict was read out, drawing applause from members of victims' associations in the heavily guarded courtroom.