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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Bosnian Serb gets life sentence
Milomir Stakic
Stakic was not a prominent political leader, but a mayor
A former Bosnian Serb doctor has been cleared of genocide during the Bosnian war - but convicted of related crimes and sentenced to life in prison.

It is the first time the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague has handed down a life sentence - the maximum penalty it can impose.

Milomir Stakic was convicted of the persecution, extermination and deportation of thousands Bosnian Muslims and Croats in north-west Bosnia's notorious prison camps during the war.

Stakic had faced three counts of genocide and five counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes in the camps set up in the Prijedor region.

The accused Milomir Stakic is guilty of extermination, murder, persecutions, deportation. [He] is hereby sentenced to life in imprisonment
Court judgment
By handing down a life sentence, the court has signalled that it is not only the high-profile figures like former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic who may spend the rest of their lives behind bars, the BBC's Geraldine Coughlan in The Hague says.

Both sides have two weeks to file an appeal.


Milomir Stakic looked intense and serious as the sentence was read out, our correspondent says.

Judge Wolfgang Schomburg said: "Despite the comprehensive pattern of atrocities against non-Serbs in Prijedor, the trial chamber has not found this to be a case of genocide, rather it is a case of persecution, deportation and extermination."

Omarska detention camp
Stakic was responsible for prison camps like Omarska
As the top administrator of the region and mayor of Prijedor, Stakic was said to have been responsible for the atrocities at the infamous concentration camps.

The court found that he was a co-perpetrator, along with other Bosnian Serb officials, in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

"Dr Stakic was one of the main actors in this persecutorial campaign and the trial chamber is satisfied that he had the requisite intent to discriminate against non-Serbs," it said.

The judge said he was part of a plan to achieve the goal of the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to establish a separate Serbian state.

The judge said the crimes Stakic was convicted of - extermination, murder, persecution and deportation - could not have happened without him and that life in jail was a fitting punishment.

Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian said: "We are very happy with this sentence. It reflects the gravity of the crime and the role played by the accused."

Genocide charge

To prove genocide, the prosecution had to prove a prior intent to destroy an ethnic group wholly or in part.

The prosecution had asked for a life sentence for genocide for Stakic.

But the judge said there was no proof that he had a specific intent to commit genocide, even though more than a thousand non-Serbs were massacred and tens of thousands deported from his municipality.

To date, the court has handed down only one genocide verdict - to Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic who was convicted over the Srebrenica massacres and sentenced to 46 years in prison.

The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan
"This is an important precedent for the court... the first time it has passed a life sentence"

Jim Landale, war crimes tribunal spokesman
"This is a landmark judgement"

Omarska: A vision of hell
02 Nov 01  |  Europe

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