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Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Bosnian Croat war criminals jailed
Mladen Naletilic shortly before his sentencing at The Hague
Naletilic's paramilitary unit contained many hardened criminals
Two former Bosnian Croat paramilitaries have been given lengthy prison sentences by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague for their roles in the Bosnian civil war in the early 1990s.

Mladen Naletilic, known as Tuta, and Vinko Martinovic, known as Stela, were sentenced to 20 and 18 years in prison respectively for persecuting, torturing and expelling Muslims from south-western Bosnia.

Naletilic founded a notorious paramilitary unit which allegedly specialised in driving Muslims from their homes in the Bosnian city of Mostar and surrounding areas.

Martinovic, his subordinate, was also found guilty of forcing Muslim prisoners to act as decoys with fake guns to draw enemy fire.

Both men denied the charges when their trial began in September 2001.

'Worst excesses'

Naletilic was in charge of the infamous Convicts' Battalion (Kazjenicka Bojna), a paramilitary unit which - like several of its Serbian counterparts - had recruited many hardened criminals into its ranks.

As ethnic conflict worsened in 1993, the Convicts' Battalion was unleashed on the local Muslim community.

According to the indictment, Naletilic was a leading figure involved in a campaign of killings, torture, expulsions, detentions, looting and the destruction of religious monuments.

The court judgement found that Martinovic had committed his "worst excesses" on 17 September 1993 when, under his command, four Muslim prisoners-of-war were dressed in Croat soldiers' uniforms and given fake Kalashnikov guns.

"While the word human shield was used in the indictment, decoy would be the most appropriate description for the position in which the prisoners were put to draw fire and protect the HVO (Croatian forces) advance," the statement said.

Hopes for justice

BBC south-east Europe analyst, Gabriel Partos, says that the case is an illustration of part of an increasing trend of recent years - that justice eventually catches up with a growing number of those accused of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.

However it will also trigger further demands for the arrests of those still at large, such as the Bosnian Serbs' wartime leader, Radovan Karadzic, and his military commander, General Ratko Mladic, our analyst adds.

Among others, the two leaders are held responsible for the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 when 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces.

On Monday, the remains of 600 of the victims - the first identified - were reburied in individual graves just outside Srebrenica.

Profile: Mladen Naletilic
21 Mar 00  |  Europe
Bosnia warlord faces trial
21 Mar 00  |  Europe


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