THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Appeals judges at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal on Friday upheld genocide convictions against two senior Bosnian Serbs for their roles in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the first final judgment for genocide by the United Nations court.
Vujadin Popovic and Ljubisa Beara, convicted of the most serious offense in the war crimes statute, were high-ranking security officers with the Bosnian Serb army that overran Muslim forces and thinly armed U.N. troops in the Srebrenica enclave in July 1995 and subsequently murdered some 8,000 Muslim men and boys, Europe's worst massacre since World War II.
A small part of both men's 2010 convictions was overturned in Friday's ruling, but Presiding Judge Patrick Robinson upheld the vast majority and reaffirmed their life sentences — the harshest punishment ever handed down by the court. The appeals court also added fresh convictions for both men for conspiracy to commit genocide.
In a lengthy appeals decision at the end of the court's biggest trial, two other Bosnian Serbs had their sentences of 35 and 13 years' imprisonment upheld, while one had his 19-year sentence cut by one year.
Two more Bosnian Serbs were convicted at the original trial. One of them did not appeal and the other has since died.
In Bosnia, Mirsada Malagic, whose husband and two sons died in the massacre, said nothing could make up for her loss, but she welcomed the judgment for its deterrent effect.
"In order to satisfy other victims, and to find some sort of inner comfort, it is good because at least others who intend to commit crimes like this will know that justice will be done, sooner or later," she said.
The only other person to have been convicted by the U.N. court of genocide is Gen. Zdravko Tolimir, a key aide to Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic, who is considered the chief architect of the Srebrenica massacre. Tolimir also is appealing his conviction and life sentence.
In another case, Gen. Radislav Krstic, was convicted on appeal in 2004 of aiding and abetting genocide in Srebrenica.
Mladic is currently on trial for his alleged role in atrocities throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian War. His wartime political master, Radovan Karadzic, also is on trial on the same charges.