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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Bosnia Serb jailed for war crimes
Momcilo Krajisnik at The Hague tribunal on the day of the judgement
Krajisnik is one of the most senior figures tried in The Hague
A Bosnian Serb leader accused of being one of the architects of ethnic cleansing in the Bosnian war has been jailed for 27 years for war crimes.

But the UN international tribunal in The Hague acquitted Momcilo Krajisnik of genocide, the most serious charge.

Krajisnik is a former speaker of the Bosnian Serb parliament and was a close aide to ex-Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is still on the run.

The court said there was "insufficient evidence" to prove genocide charges.

Krajisnik, 61, is the most senior political figure from any of the conflicts in the former Yugoslav republics to have been found guilty by The Hague tribunal, says the BBC's South-East Europe analyst, Gabriel Partos.

Groups representing victims of the Bosnian war spoke out against the acquittal, while some Bosnian Serbs criticised the tribunal.

'Authority'

The judge said Krajisnik was part of a joint criminal enterprise which carried out the extermination, murder, persecution and deportation of non-Serbs during the Bosnian war between 1992 and 1995.

Mr Krajisnik... accepted that a heavy price of suffering, death and destruction was necessary to achieve Serb domination
Judge Alphons Orie

Krajisnik's role in the commission of the crimes was crucial, Judge Alphons Orie said.

"His positions within the Bosnian Serb leadership gave him the authority to facilitate the military, police and paramilitary groups to implement the objective of the joint criminal enterprise," he said.

"Mr Krajisnik... accepted that a heavy price of suffering, death and destruction was necessary to achieve Serb domination."

Krajisnik was acquitted of genocide or complicity in genocide on the grounds that the court had found no evidence of a genocidal intent on his part to destroy in full or part ethnic or religious communities.

That is likely to disappoint many Bosnian Muslims who believe their community was the victim of genocide during the war, our analyst says.

'Major blow'

"We are shocked. We still cannot believe that he was acquitted of genocide," Bakira Hasecic, head of the "Women - Victims of War" association, told the French news agency AFP.

"The sentence is a major blow to justice. It is an insult for the victims," she said.

But some Bosnian Serbs hit out at the verdict.

"This only confirms that this tribunal is a scaffold for Serbs and that Serbs should not surrender and go there," Rade Miladinovic, a clerk from Pale, told the Associated Press news agency.

Bosnian Presidency Chairman Sulejman Tihic said that the verdict had "partially served justice".

"I hope that the prosecutor will appeal the verdict and that Krajisnik will be found guilty of genocide in a final judgment," he said in a statement.

So far, the UN court in The Hague has handed down only two genocide convictions, both for Bosnian Serb officers who helped to organise the Srebrenica massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

'Mr No'

The court heard that Krajisnik helped arm Bosnian Serb civilians so that they could kill non-Serbs and drive them from large areas of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Krajisnik said he knew nothing of the war crimes. But former Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Biljana Plavsic testified that he was "very powerful" and at times he had even "dominated" the overall leader, Radovan Karadzic.

Momcilo Krajisnik is the highest-ranking Bosnian Serb politician so far to be tried for war crimes

Krajisnik testified for weeks in his own defence during the trial, claiming he was a peacemaker and that he was unaware of any crimes.

He was detained in 2000 in Pale, just outside Sarajevo, when French Nato troops blasted off the door to his home with explosives.

He co-founded the Serb nationalist party in Bosnia with Mr Karadzic and went on to lead the Bosnian Serb parliament during the war, in which about 110,000 died.

He was later one of the negotiators of the Dayton peace accords, when he earned the nickname "Mr No" for his uncompromising stance during negotiations.

The Hague tribunal is aiming to begin winding down operations from 2008 with the final trials of those accused of war crimes in the Bosnian war to begin that year.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Why Krajisnik was acquitted of the genocide charges




SEE ALSO
Top Bosnian Serb goes on trial
04 Feb 04 |  Europe
Profile: Momcilo Krajisnik
27 Sep 06 |  Europe
Bosnia: The legacy of war
15 Nov 00 |  Europe

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