Page last updated at 17:31 GMT, Monday, 15 September 2008 18:31 UK

Hague jails ex-Bosnian army chief

Rasim Delic at the courtroom in the The Hague war crimes tribunal (15/09/2008)
Delic is one of the most senior Bosnian Muslim leaders to have faced a trial

Former Bosniak Muslim army chief Rasim Delic has been jailed for three years for war crimes at The Hague.

The UN's war crimes tribunal convicted Delic over the "cruel treatment" of Serb soldiers by troops under his command during the 1992-1995 war.

However, Delic was acquitted of three other counts of murder and cruelty.

Croats and Serbs in Bosnia have both criticised the short sentence given to Delic, one of the most senior Bosniak leaders tried at The Hague.

His predecessor as chief of the command staff of the Bosniak army, Sefer Halilovic, was acquitted at the end of his trial in 2005.

Delic was found guilty by a majority verdict of "failing to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent and punish the crimes of cruel treatment" committed by foreign fighters, or "mujahideen", under his command in the "El Mujahed" unit.

The unit was mostly made up of volunteer Arab fighters, including veterans of the conflict in Afghanistan, who rapidly acquired a reputation for battlefield brutality.

Electric shocks

The court said the troops had mistreated people in the village of Livade and in a prison camp in Kamenica.

A flagrant violation of international law and an example of double standards in judiciary
Rajko Kuzmanovic on the verdict
It found that 12 Bosnian Serb army detainees were subjected to severe beatings and electric shocks.

They were also forced to kiss the severed heads of other detainees.

But the court acquitted Delic of the more serious charge of murder, relating to an incident in September 1995 in which members of his unit killed an elderly Serb man and 52 Bosnian Serb soldiers.

The court said it could not prove that Delic knew the crimes were about to be or had been committed.

The court also said Delic could not be held responsible for the murder by mujahideen troops of about 24 Bosnian Croat civilians and soldiers in the villages of Maline and Bikosi in June 1993.

Other charges of cruel treatment were ruled out after the court said Delic had not known of the events or that there had been "no superior-subordinate relationship" with perpetrators at the time.

'Unpleasantly surprised'

Former commander of the Bosnian Muslim army Sefer Halilovic at The Hague in November 2005
Delic's predecessor, Sefer Halilovic, was acquitted in 2005
Rajko Kuzmanovic, president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, criticised the lenient sentence handed to Delic, calling it a "flagrant violation of international law and an example of double standards in judiciary".

In a written statement, he said such a verdict would damage confidence in the activity and neutrality of the court.

Mr Kuzmanovic's prime minister, Milorad Dodik, said it showed that "justice for the Serb victims of the war is really unreachable".

Meanwhile the Croat Democratic Union of Bosnia, said it was "unpleasantly surprised" by the "shamefully mild" verdict.

Presiding judge Bakone Justice Moloto said in his ruling that while the violence had been "appallingly brutal", there was not enough evidence that Delic could have exercised sufficient control over his troops, reports Reuters.

Delic's defence team had argued for a full acquittal on the same grounds and his lawyer, Vasvija Vidovic, said they would appeal against the verdict.

Delic, who has maintained his innocence throughout, handed himself in to the war crimes tribunal in February 2005.

He will only have to serve about two years in prison as he has already spent over a year in custody.


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