Serb leader jailed for war crimes


Jun 12, 2007

The international war crimes tribunal in The Hague has sentenced a former Serb rebel leader to 35 years in jail for atrocities carried out in Croatia.

Milan Martic, 52, was found guilty of murder and persecution during his leadership of the self-declared Krajina Serb republic in the early 1990s.

He was guilty of ethnic cleansing targeting non-Serbs, the judges said. Martic had denied the charges.

He was also convicted for a 1995 rocket attack on the Croatian capital, Zagreb.

The Krajina Serb republic lasted from 1991 to 1995, when a Croat offensive brought it under Zagreb's control.

'Greater Serbia' plan

The tribunal said Martic had deliberately fuelled the atmosphere of fear by publicly stating that he could not guarantee the safety of non-Serbs in areas under Serbian control.

Martic had committed crimes against "elderly people, persons held in detention and civilians" - victims whose "special vulnerability" added to the gravity of the offences, Judge Bakone Moloto said.

Martic surrendered to the tribunal in The Hague in 2002.

The court heard how Serbian leaders allegedly planned to create a so-called "Greater Serbia", annexing ethnic Serb territory within Bosnia and Croatia.

Plans to expel Croats and other non-Serbs were at the root of the establishment of the Krajina Serb republic, prosecutor Alex Whiting said.

"Croats and other non-Serbs were targeted by discriminatory measures, forced removal, imprisonment and murder in an effort to drive them away.

"Their property was looted and destroyed so they would never have a home to return to," he added.

'Key figure'

As a former police chief, he is alleged to have helped train and equip police and special forces in the rebel Serb republic.

Prosecutors said Martic was a key figure in a "joint criminal enterprise" masterminded by the former Serb leader in Belgrade, Slobodan Milosevic.

Martic was the first Krajina leader to go on trial.

His predecessor as leader of the rebel republic, Milan Babic, avoided a trial by pleading guilty to ethnic cleansing and persecution and was sentenced to 13 years in jail in 2004.

The wartime leaders of the Bosnian Serbs, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, are currently on the run.