THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal convicted two senior Bosnian Serbs on Wednesday of key roles in a campaign of murder, torture and persecution against Muslims and Croats during the 1992-95 Bosnian war and sentenced them each to 22 years in prison.
Mico Stanisic was the interior minister in the breakaway Bosnian Serb republic set up during his country's bitter war, while Stojan Zupljanin was a senior security official in charge of police.
Prosecutors had sought life sentences for both men after charging them with involvement in a criminal conspiracy led by Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic and his military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic, to force Muslims and Croats out of what they considered to be Serb territory in Bosnia.
Presiding Judge Burton Hall said both men were in a position to prevent or punish crimes and neither did as Serb police and paramilitaries went on a rampage in early 1992, killing and mistreating non-Serbs as they tried to carve out a "Greater Serbia" during the bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia.
The two men "both intended and significantly contributed to the plan to remove Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from the territory of the planned Serbian state," Hall said.
Zupljanin stood and crossed himself as Hall said he was guilty of persecution, extermination, murder and torture. Stanisic stood stoically as he was convicted of persecution, murder and torture but was acquitted of extermination.
Zupljanin was convicted of extermination in part because he set up a notorious police unit that the court ruled "committed heinous crimes against Muslims and Croats, including rape, torture and murder" and that he deliberately shielded police under his command from prosecution in at least two massacres of Muslims.
The court's detailed judgment, running more than 600 pages, provided a grim reminder of the horrors of war that erupted in Bosnia more than two decades ago.
Hall said one group of Serb paramilitaries, known as the Yellow Wasps, tortured Muslim prisoners near the town of Zvornik in April 1992, including forcing fathers and sons to perform sexual acts on each other. Other members of the Wasps forced prisoners to eat body parts cut off from other people, Hall said, adding "if a prisoner did not do so, he was killed."
Both Karadzic and Mladic are still on trial at the U.N. court on charges including genocide for allegedly masterminding the slaughter, persecution and mass deportation of non-Serbs during the Bosnian war, which left more than 100,000 people dead.
The tribunal has indicted 161 people for their roles in atrocities in the former Yugoslavia over a decade starting in 1991, most of them Serbs. Only six trials remain to be completed.