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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 January, 2004, 12:44 GMT
Babic admits persecuting Croats
Milan Babic
Milan Babic some remorse in a statement to the tribunal
Former senior Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic, on trial at The Hague war crimes tribunal, has pleaded guilty to persecuting non-Serbs.

Mr Babic, 47, is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in Croatia's Krajina region in the 1990s.

He admitted persecution after plea-bargaining with prosecutors.

Tribunal judges are said to be considering whether to accept the plea, which would mean four other war crimes charges would have to be dropped.

Mr Babic showed some remorse in a statement to the tribunal on Tuesday.

"I come before this tribunal with a deep sense of shame and remorse. I have allowed myself to take part in the worst kind of persecution of people simply because they were Croats and not Serbs," he said.

I ask my brother Croats to forgive us, their brother Serbs
Milan Babic

The charges relate to a Serb revolt in Krajina against Croatian independence, between 1991 and 1992.

Mr Babic was briefly president of the Republic of Serb Krajina.

He was an ally of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who is himself on trial for alleged war crimes.

The indictment said that the Serbs aimed to remove most of the Croat and other non-Serb population from one third of Croatia's territory.

In one of the incidents, prosecutors say Serb forces killed 56 civilians near the village of Bacin.

Evictions

Mr Babic said his regret was "the pain I have to live the rest of my life".

"I ask my brother Croats to forgive us, their brother Serbs," he said.

He also appealed to other Serbs to acknowledge the wrongs committed against their neighbours.

As part of the plea-bargaining, Mr Babic signed a confession in which he admitted he was aware of the forced eviction and persecution of Croats; he helped spread pro-Serb propaganda; and that he helped distribute weapons among the Serb population.

More than 78,000 Croats and about 2,000 Muslims lived in Krajina in 1991.

According to the indictment against Mr Babic, almost all the non-Serb population "was forcibly removed, deported or killed" within a year.

Mr Babic said he knew non-Serb civilians were dying in the war but did not know about the deliberate murder of hundreds of people, and had no knowledge of crimes while they were being committed.

He pleaded guilty to persecution on political, racial and religious grounds, as a crime against humanity.

He faces a maximum life imprisonment, but the prosecution is expected to recommend a lesser sentence.




SEE ALSO:
Croatian Serb leader at tribunal
26 Nov 03  |  Europe
Milosevic trial a legal marathon
12 Feb 03  |  Europe
Timeline: Croatia
25 Nov 03  |  Country profiles


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