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Former Serbia president acquitted of war crimes charges

[JURIST] Former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic [TrialWatch profile; ICTY case backgrounder, PDF] on Thursday was acquitted [judgment summary, PDF; press release] of all charges [case materials] of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website; JURIST news archive]. Also Thursday, five other former high-ranking Yugoslav officials were convicted for crimes against humanity by the ICTY. Of the five, former Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic [BBC profile], Yugoslav Army General Nebojsa Pavkovic and Serbian Police General Sreten Lukic were each sentenced to 22 years in prison, and former Yugoslav Army General Vladimir Lazarevic and Chief of General Staff Dragoljub Ojdanic [BBC profile] were each sentenced to 15 years in prison. The charges stemmed from crimes allegedly committed during the 1999 ethnic conflicts [State Department backgrounder] in Kosovo [JURIST news archive], which included the deportation of 800,000 Kosovar Albanian civilians and the forcible transfer, murder and persecution of Kosovar Albanians at the hands of Serbian troops. The ICTY held that Milutinovic had not substantially contributed to the criminal enterprise and that he did not have actual control over these forces.

Milutinovic took over as president of Serbia [JURIST news archive] in 1997 after Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive] ended his presidency, but Milutinovic reportedly continued to stay in close contact with Milosevic and carry out his policies. The Milutinovic trial was one of the largest and most complex in the ICTY's history as it included testimony from over 235 witnesses and included over 4,300 exhibits. The ICTY has indicted nine of the most senior Serb and Yugoslav officials for the crimes committed during the Kosovo conflict. In total the Tribunal has indicted 161 people for human rights violations allegedly committed in the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001, and 116 of the proceedings have been completed.

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