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France court awards Bosnia civil war victims damages for injuries

A French court on Monday awarded a Bosnian family 200,000 euros (USD $280,000) for wartime abuses committed by former Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Biljana Plavsic [JURIST news archives]. In an unprecedented civil decision, the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris [official website, in French] ordered Karadzic and Plavsic to compensate [AFP report, in French] Adil and Zuhra Kovac and their children for the humiliation they suffered and costs incurred from Adil's injuries sustained after being attacked during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war [JURIST news archive]. During the attack on their home, Adil was beaten, and the family was locked in their gasoline-drenched house. The Kovacs fled to the woods where their grandmother was murdered and Kovac's son was shot in the leg. After the incident, the Kovacs left Bosnia and acquired French citizenship, beginning their civil suit against Karadzic, Plavsic, Ratko Mladic and Momcilo Krajisnik [ICTY materials] for 1,000,000 euros six years ago. The court found sufficient evidence that Karadzic and Plavsic were personally responsible for the harm suffered by the Kovacs. The court requested additional evidence the determine Mladic's responsibility and declared itself incompetent to hear the case against Krajisnik. The decision must now be accepted by Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and communicated to Karadzic and Plavsic.

The court's ruling may pave the way for victims of war crimes to obtain civil compensation from war criminals without a criminal trial. Karadzic faces 11 war crimes charges [indictment, PDF], including counts of genocide and murder, for alleged crimes he committed during the war in BiH. Karadzic is defending himself in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] and has denied all of the charges against him. After multiple suspensions [JURIST reports], Karadzic's trial is expected to last through 2012. In 2009, Plavsic was released [JURIST report] from a Swedish prison after serving two-thirds of her sentence for war crimes committed between July 1991 and December 1992. Plavsic voluntarily surrendered herself to the ICTY in 2001 and was sentenced to 11 years in a Swedish prison. The ICTY agreed to grant her release [JURIST report], citing good behavior and "substantial evidence of rehabilitation." In 2010, the ICTY denied [decision, PDF; JURIST report] early release to Krajisnik who was sentenced [JURIST report] by the ICTY in 2006 to 27 years in a British prison for his role in the forced evacuation and displacement of several thousand Muslims and Croatians, including women and children. The ICTY reduced [JURIST report] Krajisnik's sentence to 20 years in 2009, transferring him to a UK prison to serve his time. Mladic, who faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, is currently at large [JURIST report] under the jurisdiction of the ICTY and has yet to be arrested.

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