Serbs Oppose 27-Year Sentence For Ex-General

Posted September 6th, 2011 at 1:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Government officials in Serbia have sharply criticized the United Nations war-crimes tribunal for sentencing a former Yugoslav army chief to 27 years in prison, a punishment they said was too harsh.

The U.N. court in The Hague handed down the sentence Tuesday against Momcilo Perisic, who was convicted of murder, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his support of Serb forces that battled Croats and Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s, during the wars that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Serbia’s defense minister, Dragan Sutanovac, denounced the court’s action against the 67-year-old Perisic as “extremely harsh” and said he hopes the prison term will be reversed on appeal. However, news reports from other former Yugoslav republics say many people there thought the sentence was too lenient.

Perisic was found guilty of criminal responsibility for the massacre at Srebrenica, where thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed in 1995, and the murderous siege of Sarajevo, when Bosnian Serb forces trained mortar shells and sniper fire on that capital city’s civilians for nearly four years . He also was found guilty of failing to limit or prevent Serb forces’ attacks on civilians in Zagreb, now the capital of independent Croatia.

One charge accusing the Yugoslav general of direct, personal responsibility for the slaughter at Srebrenica was dropped, but the court ruled that he supplied officers, troops, weapons, ammunition and other support for Serb fighters in Bosnia, Croatia and elsewhere.

Perisic is the first senior official of the former Yugoslav government found guilty by the war-crimes tribunal. His conviction was seen as a clear decision in support of allegations that the disintegrating federation government in Belgrade prolonged and worsened fighting in the breakaway Yugoslav republics by its support for nominally separate Serb forces there.

Perisic also was a close associate of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who was being tried on similar charges when he died in his jail cell in the Netherlands in 2006.