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Wartime Croatian Serb Leader Sentenced To 13 Years


UN Tribunal Sentences Wartime Croatian Serb Leader To 13 Years In Prison

The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia today sentenced a former wartime Croatian Serb leader to 13 years in jail – longer than even prosecutors requested – for his role in what it described as a ruthless and savage ethnic cleansing campaign in the Krajina region of Croatia from 1991 to 1992.

As part of a plea agreement, Milan Babic, 48, had pleaded guilty to being a co-perpetrator in a joint criminal enterprise to forcibly and permanently remove Croats and other non-Serbs during his stint as president of the self-declared Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK).

Prosecutors then dropped four other charges and recommended a sentence of no more than 11 years for Mr. Babic, but yesterday three judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), sitting in The Hague, said that was not enough given the gravity of the crimes that occurred.

Presiding Judge Alphons Orie of the Netherlands said Mr. Babic participated in a campaign of persecution that “involved the murder of more than 200 civilians, including women and elderly persons, the confinement and imprisonment of several hundred civilians in inhumane conditions, the forcible transfer or deportation of thousands of civilians, and the destruction of homes and public or private property.”

He added: “The crime, which was characterized by ruthlessness and savagery and was committed with the intent to discriminate against non-Serb civilians, strongly impacted on victims and their relatives. Their suffering is still significant.”

Serb nationalists formed the RSK in 1991 after Serb forces invaded and took control of the Krajina region, which comprises about a third of Croatian territory and was home to large numbers of ethnic Serbs.

Mr. Babic, a dentist by profession, was a prominent Serb politician who became President of the RSK in December 1991.

He admitted to helping devise and implement policies to pursue the removal of non-Serbs from Krajina, recruiting and organizing the armed forces to carry out the campaign, and making inflammatory speeches to the media and in public against Croats and other non-Serbs.

Mr. Babic also admitted he knew that many civilians were being killed as a result of the ethnic cleansing campaign, although he maintained he did not know of any specific murders.

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