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International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia: War Crimes Conviction for Seven Serbs

(June 16, 2010) On June 10, 2010, two former Bosnian Serb officers were given sentences of life in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), for crimes of genocide, extermination, murder, and persecution). Vujadin Popović and Ljubiša Beara, the chiefs of security for different branches of the Serb army, were convicted for their part in the killing of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995. Five other former military or police officers were also given prison terms for having a role in that massacre as well as another at Zepa. Both towns were supposed to be safe havens. (UN Tribunal Jails Two Bosnian Serbs for Life over Srebrenica Massacre, UN NEWS CENTRE (June 10, 2010),; Press Release, ICTY, Seven Senior Bosnian Serb Officials Convicted of Srebrenica Crimes (June 10, 2010),

The findings of the ICTY were that at least 5,336 and perhaps as many as 7,826 people were killed when Serb forces entered Srebrenica under orders from Radovan Karadzic, then the Bosnian Serb President. The ICTY determined that there were two criminal enterprises carried out in eastern Bosnia in July 1995: the murder of able-bodied Bosnian Muslim men from Srebrenica and the forced removal of the Bosnian Muslim population from Srebrenica and Zepa. On the question of whether genocide had occurred, the Court stated:

The scale and nature of the murder operation, with the staggering number of killings, the systematic and organised manner in which it was carried out, the targeting and relentless pursuit of the victims, and the plain intention, apparent from the evidence, to eliminate every Bosnian Muslim male who was captured or surrendered proves beyond reasonable doubt that this was genocide. … In the context of the war in the former Yugoslavia, and in the context of human history, these events are arrestive in their scale and brutality. (Press Release, supra.)

Both Popović and Beara were found to have personal responsibility for the massacre. Popović was present at various locations at which Bosnian Muslims were held or executed in mid-July 1995 and was considered to have played a role in the attacks on the designated safe havens. Beara, according to the judges, was a “driving force behind the murder enterprise” and “had the clearest overall picture of the massive scale and scope of the killing operation.” (Id.)

The other defendants were found to have lesser degrees of responsibility for the crimes and were given sentences of imprisonment ranging from 5 to 35 years. (UN NEWS CENTRE, supra.) The trial was the largest in scale in the history of the ICTY, taking 425 days and involving testimony from 315 witnesses. (Id.)

The ICTY was established in 1993 by the United Nations, with a mission of trying those who committed war crimes in the Balkans in the 1990s. (About the ICTY, ICTY website, (last visited June 11, 2010).)