18 Oct 2009

Bosnian Serb jailed for 30 years

10:23 am on 18 October 2009

Bosnia's war crimes court has jailed a former Serb officer for 30 years on a charge of genocide for killing dozens of people during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Muslims.

The court acquitted former army captain Milorad Trbic, 51, of three other counts of genocide due to lack of evidence, the head of the judicial council Davorin Jukic said.

Trbic was found guilty of taking part in the persecution of Bosnian Muslims from the Srebrenica enclave and their detention, summary executions, burial and covering traces of crime.

Some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the Srebrenica massacre after Bosnian Serb forces captured the eastern enclave on 11 July 1995, in what is regarded as Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

Trbic took part in a "joint criminal enterprise" with other Serb army officers and organised the forcible transfer of Muslims from Srebrenica, Judge Jukic said.

He supervised the detention of thousands of Muslims in several schools around Srebrenica, where they were kept in inhuman conditions, as well as transportation to the killing fields where they were executed en masse, the judge said.

Trbic himself shot dead two groups of Muslins and was involved in the exhumation of victims from original mass graves and their later transfer to "secondary mass graves" to hide the traces of the crime.

Remains of more than 6,000 Srebrenica victims have been found in mass graves across the eastern Bosnia but only about 3,800 bodies have been identified so far.

After the 1992-95 Bosnian war, Trbic escaped to the United States but was found guilty of breaking immigration laws. In 2005 he was handed over to the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The court indicted him on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of laws or customs of war and sent him to Bosnia for trial in June 2007.

The Bosnian war crimes court opened in 2005 to help ease the burden of the ICTY, which plans to wind down by end of 2010, taking over low- or mid-ranking cases.