Page last updated at 16:40 GMT, Monday, 20 July 2009 17:40 UK

Bosnian Serbs guilty of burnings


The war crimes tribunal finds Milan and Sredoje Lukic guilty of crimes

Two Bosnian Serb commanders have been found guilty of war crimes, including burning women and children alive, during the Bosnian civil war.

Cousins Milan and Sredoje Lukic were members of a paramilitary group called the White Eagles, or the Avengers.

They were accused of murder, persecution, extermination and other inhumane acts against Bosnian Muslims near Visegrad between 1992 and 1994.

Judges at The Hague jailed Milan Lukic for life, and Sredoje to 30 years.

Judge Patrick Robinson, reading his verdict, said: "The perpetration by Milan Lukic and Stredoje Lukic of crimes in this case is characterised by a callous and vicious disregard for human life."

The burning alive of Muslims, he said, was extraordinarily brutal, and "exemplified the worst acts of inhumanity that one person may inflict on others".


The court ruled that Milan Lukic, the leader of the White Eagles paramilitary force, was the ringleader of the attacks.

Paramilitary group in Bosnian conflict in early 1990s
Accused of ethnic cleansing of Muslims near Visegrad
Worked with Bosnian Serb police and army units
Also known as the "Avengers"

He herded about 130 women, children and elderly men in to two houses - both in or near the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad - before setting fire to them.

All those who tried to escape were shot.

He was also found guilty of murdering 12 Muslim civilian men, and beating Muslims at a detention camp.

Sredoje Lukic was found guilty of aiding and abetting one of the house fires.

Prosecutors told the tribunal that the White Eagles carried out a campaign of ethnic cleaning.

One prosecutor, Dermot Groome, said the cousins took part in a "widespread and systematic attack on the civilian population".

Top fugitives

The cousins had denied the charges at their trial at the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague, which ended in May.

The defence had called for an acquittal because of what it called "inconsistencies" in the prosecution evidence.

But the court found the testimonies of surviving witnesses to be credible.

In 2005, Milan and Sredoje Lukic were two of The Hague tribunal's top fugitives.

Milan Lukic, 41, went on the run for seven years after being indicted on war crimes charges, but was arrested in Argentina in August 2005 and was handed over to the tribunal after being extradited.

Sredoje Lukic, 48, surrendered to the Bosnian Serb authorities the following month.

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