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Serbia war crimes court convicts 2

The trial chamber of the Belgrade Higher Court's War Crimes Department convicted two men Monday whom prosecutors claim were involved in the deaths of about 700 Muslim civilians in 1992. The court sentenced former Zvormik mayor Branko Grujic [Bloomberg report] to six years in prison and former Zvormik local defense chief Branko Popovich to 15 years in prison for their roles in the torture and death of hundreds of Muslims in their hometown during the 1992-1995 Bosnian Civil War [JURIST news archive]. The pair was charged [indictment, PDF, in Serbian; JURIST report] in 2008 with using their positions to detain and kill civilians. The Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor [official website] announced it will appeal the sentences [press release, PDF], arguing that both sentences are too lenient and "are not in line with the defendants' responsibility, in terms of the number of victims involved, and in view of the size and brutality of the crime."

Serbia has undertaken an ongoing effort to apprehend those responsible for the atrocities that occurred in the region over the last two decades. Last month, the Belgrade Appeals Court overturned the war crimes conviction of former Bosnian officer Ilija Jurisic and ordered a retrial, ruling that the trial court had convicted him on insufficient evidence. In September, the War Crimes Chamber sentenced [press release, PDF; JURIST report] former paramilitary officer Zeljko Djukic [JURIST news archive] to 20 years in prison for his involvement in the deaths of 14 civilians in March 1999 during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. In August, Croatian authorities extradited Sretko Kalinic to Serbia for his alleged connection with the 2003 assassination [JURIST reports] of former Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic [BBC obituary; memorial website, in Serbian]. In July, an extradition hearing [JURIST report] for former Bosnian president Ejup Ganic began in London to determine whether the former leader should be forced to face trial in Serbia for alleged war crimes. The continuing attempt to find all individuals responsible for the atrocities has created a new political tension [JURIST comment] in the region that most believe will not soon go away.

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