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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September, 2003, 05:36 GMT 06:36 UK
Serbs sentenced for war crimes
A court in Belgrade has given long prison sentences to four former Serb paramilitaries found guilty of war crimes - the first such conviction since the Serbian parliament appointed a special war crimes prosecutor in July.

The men - Milan Lukic, Oliver Krsmanovic, Dragutin Dragicevic and Djordje Sevic - were found guilty of torturing and murdering 16 Muslim civilians whom they abducted from a bus travelling from Serbia to Bosnia in 1992.

The incident - known as the Sjeverin case after the town where the victims were kidnapped - was the most serious crime to take place on Serbian territory during the Balkan wars in the early 1990s.

The four men - two of whom were tried in absentia - were given 15 to 20-year prison sentences.

Torture

Judge Nata Mesarevic told the the court that the victims were first taken to a motel in Bosnia's Serb-held town of Visegrad, where they were tortured,

The judge said that the four paramilitary officers "then brought them (the victims) to the bank of the Drina river and killed them".

The victims' remains have never been found.

Lukic and Krsmanovic - who were tried in absentia - were each sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Dragicevic and Mr Sevic, who appeared in court, were given 15 and 20-year prison sentences respectively.

It is reported that even though the massacre took place before the eyes of many witnesses, the former Serbian authorities under the then President, Slobodan Milosevic, refused to deal with the case.

Now Serbia's new authorities - some of whose officials ousted Mr Milosevic in 2000 - are struggling to escape the legacy of his notorious regime.

Human rights activists have welcomed the convictions, but said that those who gave the orders were still at large.




SEE ALSO:
Bosnia mass grave is largest yet
18 Sep 03  |  Europe
Clinton unveils Bosnia memorial
20 Sep 03  |  Europe
At a glance: Hague tribunal
20 Feb 03  |  Europe
Vukovar massacre: What happened
13 Jun 03  |  Europe
Most wanted: The 'Vukovar Three'
19 Apr 02  |  Europe


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