Sat, Aug 02, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Serb doctor gets life for war crimes during Bosnian war

AFP , THE HAGUE

The UN war crimes tribunal on Thursday sentenced Serb doctor Milomir Stakic to life in prison, its longest sentence handed down to date, for the extermination and persecution of Muslims and Croats during the Bosnian war.

But the international tribunal threw out the charge of genocide, the gravest of war crimes, against Stakic, 41, the ultimate boss of the infamous concentration camps of Prijedor.

Pictures of the emaciated victims at one of the camps, resembling the walking skeletons of the Holocaust, alerted the world to the ethnic cleansing going on in the region after Bosnian Serbs overthrew the multi-ethnic authorities in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

"The accused Milomir Stakic is guilty of extermination, murder, persecutions, deportation," Judge Wolfgang Schomburg said, before announcing the sentence of life in prison, the first handed down by the tribunal.

Stakic showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian, who had requested a life term, said the sentence "reflects the gravity of the crimes. It sends a clear message. Those who plan these crimes will face consequences."

But former Muslim detainees of Serb-run concentration camps slammed the court's decision to drop the genocide charges.

"As a [wartime] head of the municipal council and head of the crisis staff he should and could have been found guilty of genocide, because in my opinion in that position he was working on extermination of the Muslim people," said Mensur Islamovic of an association of former detainees in the area of Prijedor.

His view was echoed by Muharem Murselovic, a Muslim deputy in the Bosnian Serb parliament from Prijedor, who was detained for six months in Omarska camp before being exchanged.

"I am satisfied with the verdict, but I regret that genocide was not proven. But regardless of that I believe that this verdict would help in a search for the truth and that it would open peoples' eyes so that this can never happen again," he said.

Stakic was head of the crisis staff that ran the district in northwestern Bosnia, the mayor of Prijedor and the director of a community health center.

He was charged with two counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity and one count of violating the laws or customs of war.

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