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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 June 2007, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Profile: Milan Martic
By Gabriel Partos
BBC South-east Europe analyst

Milan Martic, 1996
Martic spearheaded Serb ethnic cleansing in Croatia
The former leader of Croatia's Serb separatists, Milan Martic, has been jailed for 35 years by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague for murder and persecution in the early 1990s.

As the head of the Serb separatists' police force and later president of the self-proclaimed Serb republic of Krajina in Croatia, Martic was convicted for the forcible removal of Croats and other non-Serbs from Serb-held areas.

Martic was one of the pioneers of ethnic cleansing during the wars that tore apart the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

He emerged from obscurity as a provincial police inspector in 1990, when he began to organise local Serbs in their heartland around the town of Knin against Croatia's then newly-elected nationalist government under President Franjo Tudjman.

'Log Revolution'

Financed and armed by the administration of President Slobodan Milosevic in neighbouring Serbia, Martic's police and paramilitaries set up "no-go" areas for Croatia's security forces.

That followed the so-called "Log Revolution" - the setting up of barricades by ethnic Serbs in the rural Krajina region around what was to become their capital, Knin.

The aim was to create a separate Serb mini-state inside Croatia that would eventually be annexed by Serbia. And to promote that goal, Martic's forces - known as the "Marticevci" - provoked clashes with the Croatian security forces, to induce the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army to intervene on their side in the conflict.

Assault on Knin
Croatian forces captured Knin, the rebel Serbs' "capital", in 1995
Martic's tactics proved successful. By the time a ceasefire at the beginning of 1992 brought an end to the six-month war that followed Croatia's declaration of independence, almost 30% of Croatia's territory was controlled by the breakaway Serb republic.

But the separatist Serbs were a small minority - well under 10% of the population - and the only way they could control a relatively large area was through ethnic cleansing. That involved the forcible removal of Croats and other non-Serbs from the territory of Serb Krajina.

The Hague tribunal has now found Martic guilty of being instrumental in ordering the various crimes associated with ethnic cleansing, including murder, torture, deportation, plunder and wanton destruction.

But he was acquitted of the charge of extermination, in a judgement delivered by Judge Bakone Moloto.

Attack on Zagreb

According to the judgement, hundreds of non-Serbs were killed and many thousands evicted from their homes on Martic's orders - not only in Croatia but also in neighbouring Bosnia, where the Marticevci assisted the Bosnian Serbs in their violent campaign against Muslims during the early phase of the war in 1992.

Croatia map
Among the charges Martic faced was responsibility for two missile attacks on the Croatian capital Zagreb in 1995, in retaliation for the Croatian army's successful offensive that ended Serb control in the area of western Slavonia.

Martic publicly boasted at the time of ordering the attacks in which the missiles, armed with cluster bombs, killed seven people and injured another 200. So the guilty verdict was not much of a surprise.

By the time of those cluster bomb attacks, Martic was president of the breakaway Serb republic. But not for long. Three months later a major offensive by Croatian forces captured Knin and the Krajina region and spelt the end of Serb separatist aspirations in Croatia.

Martic fled in August 1995 when Croatian troops took control of Krajina. He lived in Serbia until after the fall of the Milosevic regime.

Under pressure from the new authorities in Belgrade, he surrendered to The Hague tribunal in 2002.

Martic, who is expected appeal against the guilty verdict, is the second of the Serb separatist leaders from wartime Croatia to have been sentenced for war crimes.

Another former president, Milan Babic, was given a 13-year prison term after pleading guilty and apologising for what he had done.

Babic, who was crucial in testifying about Serbia's control over Serb separatists in Croatia, committed suicide last year after being a prosecution witness against Martic, his wartime rival, and Slobodan Milosevic, his one-time boss.

The third of the Croatian Serb ex-presidents, Goran Hadzic, is one of only five war crimes suspects still on the run from The Hague tribunal. He disappeared from his home in Serbia three years ago after the Serb authorities apparently tipped him off that the tribunal had issued an indictment against him.

Country profile: Croatia
19 Apr 07 |  Country profiles
Evicted Serbs remember Storm
05 Aug 05 |  Europe
Croat suspect denies war crimes
12 Dec 05 |  Europe

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