Bosnia jails three Serb policemen over mass killing

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 28, 2012 11:42 AM
Bosnia jails three Serb policemen over mass killing

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnia's war crimes court on Thursday jailed three former Bosnian Serb police officers for 23 years each for their roles in the killing of about 200 Bosnian Muslim and Croat detention camp inmates early in the 1992-95 Bosnia war.

Sasa Zecevic, Radoslav Knezevic and Marinko Ljepoja were found guilty of committing crimes against humanity for taking part in the killings of Croat and Bosnian Muslims from the northwestern town of Prijedor, judge Vesna Jesenkovic said.

The mass killings on Mount Vlasic in central Bosnia occurred on August 21, 1992 as part of a wave of ethnic cleansing, carried out by rebel Bosnian Serb forces who were trying to create a Serb statelet by removing Muslims and Croats from the area.

"The panel of judges concluded that Zecevic personally took part in the executions while Knezevic and Ljepoja helped him commit the crime," the judge said.

The victims of the massacre were part of a group of around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, from the Prijedor area who were being held at the nearby Trnopolje detention camp.

The detainees had been told they were being released in a prisoner exchange, but around 200 men were separated from the others on Mount Vlasic and killed, the judge said.

"The men were ordered to kneel down on the edge of the road, facing an abyss, and were then shot dead with automatic weapons. After their bodies fell into the abyss, police officers threw hand grenades at them and opened fire," Jesenkovic said.

At least 12 civilians survived the killings and some of them testified at the trial.

Two other defendants in the case, Petar Civcic and Branko Topola, were acquitted because of a lack of evidence, Jesenkovic said.

Former Bosnian Serb policeman Darko Mrdja, who confessed to taking part in the massacre, was jailed for 17 years in 2004 by the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

(Reporting By Maja Zuvela, editing by Tim Pearce)