Page last updated at 12:38 GMT, Thursday, 2 October 2008 13:38 UK

Ex-Yugoslav army chief on trial

Momcilo Perisic in The Hague courtroom. Photo: March 2005
Mr Perisic was head of the Yugoslav army from 1993 to 1998

An ex-Yugoslav army commander, Momcilo Perisic, has gone on trial at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Mr Perisic is charged with responsibility for war crimes committed by Bosnian Serb and Croatian Serb forces during the 1990s Balkan wars.

The charges include murder, persecution on political, racial or religious grounds and attacks on civilians.

Mr Perisic, who was the Yugoslav army chief of staff at the time, has pleaded not guilty to all 13 charges.

'Environment of impunity'

Now 64, he was the army chief serving under then Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whose own war crimes trial ended unexpectedly with his death in 2006.

In court, prosecutor Mark Harmon argued that Mr Perisic had been one of Mr Milosevic's "principal collaborators" in seeking to create a "Greater Serbia".

"General Perisic issued orders and commands. He supplied large quantities of weapons (to the Serb army in Bosnia), the prosecutor said.

"He consistently failed in his duty to investigate and punish crimes committed by his officers... of which he was fully aware.

"He created an environment of impunity, wherein his subordinates were encouraged and did persist to commit crimes, knowing there would be no consequences," the prosecutor said.

Many charges relate to the 1992-95 siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, during which thousands of civilians died, and also the massacre of up to 8,000 Bosniak (Muslim) men and boys in the town of Srebrenica.

Mr Perisic is also accused of allowing cluster bomb attacks on Croatia's capital Zagreb in May 1995, in which several people died.

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