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Friday, May 7, 1999 Published at 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK

World: Europe

Prosecutors appeal Bosnia war sentence

The former prison commander was sentenced to time already served

Prosecutors at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague have said they plan to appeal against a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence given to the former commander of a Bosnian prison camp.

Zlatko Aleksovski, a Bosnian Croat, was convicted of mistreating Muslim prisoners during his time as head of the Kaonik prison camp in central Bosnia.

However the judges ordered him to be released immediately as he had already spent nearly three years in custody.

Prosecutors said Aleksovski beat prisoners, encouraged others to do the same and allowed prisoners to be used as human shields.

[ image: Aleksovski was convicted of mistreating Bosnian Muslim prisoners]
Aleksovski was convicted of mistreating Bosnian Muslim prisoners
The prosecution had asked the three-judge panel to sentence Aleksovski to a minimum of 10 years in prison.

Aleksovski said that the war in Bosnia had been madness and he insisted that he had done all he could to improve conditions in the camp.

He wept as the presiding judge, Almiro Simoes Rodrigues, passed sentence.

Clear signal

"Never have I hated anyone," he told the court.

"Never have I wanted to play a part in inflicting anything bad on anyone. I was, I am and I wish to remain a citizen of mankind."

Judge Rodrigues said the verdict would send a clear signal to anyone trying to avoid the obligations of a civilised society.

He said he hoped Aleksovski would make use of his freedom to take responsibility for his actions.

The two other judges found Aleksovski not guilty on two charges of grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Convention, because it had not been proved that his victims were prisoners of war as defined by the treaty.

Aleksovski was arrested in 1996 and was the first suspect handed over to the international court by the Croat authorities.

He is the fourth Bosnian Croat convicted of war crimes by the UN tribunal.

The chief UN war crimes prosecutor Louise Arbour was due in Sarajevo on Friday for talks about prosecuting war criminals from the former Yugoslavia.

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