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Serbia court sentences police officers for war crimes

The War Crimes Chamber of the Belgrade District Court on Tuesday sentenced four former police officers for crimes committed during the Serbo-Croatian War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in which around 20,000 people lost their lives. The four paramilitaries have been accused of killing [B92 report] at least six non-Serb civilians in the eastern Croatian town Beli Manastir in 1991. The presiding judge in the trial, Dragan Mirkovic, stated that there was sufficient evidence for the alleged crimes and the accused had engaged in torture, illegal detention, intimidation and inhumane treatment of civilians. Zoran Vuksic was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment while Slobodan Strigic to 10 years, Branko Hrnjak to five years and Velimir Bertic to 18 months. The prosecution announced that it will appeal the last three sentences noting that there were no mitigating factors to give the accused such short sentences.

The International Criminal Tribune for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] has been working with Serbia to convict and sentence those responsible for the crimes committed during the 1991-95 war in Croatia. Completion of the ICTY is considered the final step before Serbia's accession to the European Union (EU) [official website]. Earlier this month, the ICTY closed its third contempt trial against former Serb nationalist politician and war crimes suspect Vojislav Seselj [official website, in Serbian; JURIST news archive] who has been accused of contempt of court and divulging data in a book he authored [website, in Serbian] disclosing names, occupations and residences of 11 protected witnesses. He was sentenced in October to 18 months in prison and in July 2009 to 15 months [JURIST reports]. A week earlier, the prosecution for the ICTY reported [JURIST report] the court's Completion Strategy to the UN Security Council [official website] addressing among others Serbia's failure to investigate and prosecute those who aided the fugitives. In July 2011, Serbian authorities arrested [JURIST report] Goran Hadzic [ICTY backgrounder], the last fugitive of the original 161 sought for war crimes by the ICTY.

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