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Last Updated: Monday, 19 April, 2004, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
War crimes case widens 'genocide'
Radislav Krstic
Krstic says he did not intend to destroy the Bosnian Muslim community
A UN war crimes court has widened the definition of genocide in a landmark ruling on an appeal by a Bosnia Serb.

General Radislav Krstic had been jailed for 46 years for his role in the killing of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995.

The court rejected Krstic's appeal that the numbers were "too insignificant" to be genocide - a decision likely to set an international legal precedent.

Krstic's sentence was cut by 11 years as the court redefined his involvement.

Legal impact

The ruling could affect the trial of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who is currently on trial facing genocide charges over the 1992-95 war in Bosnia.

Genocide is the most serious of international crimes and the most difficult to prove.

The trial chamber finds that genocide occurred in Srebrenica... against the Muslim population
Judge Theodor Meron,
According to the 1948 Geneva Convention, genocide is defined as "acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group".

The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan, at The Hague, says the Krstic ruling expands the legal definition to cover the killing of men only - rather than including women and children.

She says the definition may now be applied to conflict in a small community, where local atrocities can be labelled as genocide.

Trial judges in 2001 said that in Srebrenica "ethnic cleansing became genocide".


Krstic, 56, led the troops who took the UN-designated safe haven, together with fugitive Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic.

Following his conviction in 2001, Krstic's defence lawyers questioned the genocide definition in relation to the Srebrenica massacre.

On Monday the presiding judge, Theodor Meron, said the crime "should be called by its proper name: genocide".

The five appeal judges found that Krstic's knowledge that thousands of Muslims were being executed, and the involvement of his troops in their deaths, meant he was, however, guilty of "aiding and abetting genocide", a lesser crime that was not included in his indictment.

"While Radislav Krstic's crime is undoubtedly grave, the finding that he lacked genocidal intent significantly diminishes his responsibility," Mr Meron said.


Other Bosnian Serb military leaders have been jailed for their role in the Srebrenica killings.

Army commander Dragan Obrenovic, 40, admitted persecution over the massacre and was jailed for 17 years in December. His guilty plea meant prosecutors dropped genocide charges against him.

Another commander, Momir Nikolic was given a 27-year sentence after admitting crimes against humanity in relation to crimes at Srebrenica.

Fugitive war crimes suspects Ratko Mladic and the Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic have also been indicted for genocide over Srebrenica.

The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan
"This is the first time that the Court has confirmed that the massacre at Srebrenica was genocide"

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