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International Tribunal Hands Out Verdicts, Sentences in First- Ever Wartime Trial Focussed Solely on Rape

Aired February 22, 2001 - 8:40 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: A court in The Hague has issued verdicts and sentences in a case dating back to the Bosnian war.

And CNN's Christiane Amanpour has been following for us, and she joins us now with the latest on this -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: CNN Colleen, the presiding judge here at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague has just finished handing out verdicts and sentences. It was a dramatic moment while a packed gallery of family members of the accused, just observers, and press watched the three defendants have the sentences read out against them.

This, as we've said, is the first trial that focuses entirely on sexual violence and abuse in terms of crimes committing during war. And this was during the Bosnian War. Three Bosnian Serbs belonging to the Bosnian Serb army were accused of crimes against humanity, violations of the law and customs of war in connection with systematic and widespread rape and torture.

The first defendant, Dragoljub Kunarac, was accused on 11 counts and found guilty on 11 counts of torture, rape, and enslavement. He was given a sentence of 28 years. And the judge said that he had shown a glaring disrespect for women's fundamental human rights and said that, as he had been a soldier, he could have put an end to it, but he did not, and even took part in systematic rape. And sentenced him to 28 years.

The second defendant to stand up, Radomir Kovac, had been found guilty on four counts of enslavement, rape, and outrages against personal dignity. He was sentenced to 20 years, the judge saying that, even though he had been found guilty on lesser charges than Kunarac, he had taken an 12-year-old girl and raped her and permitted her to be raped by other Bosnian Serb soldiers. And she said that proved his guilt as much as anything else. She said the treatment of a 12-year-old girl, a helpless, little child, which he should have been showing compassion to, and he never did -- she called him more morally depraved and corrupt. This man: 20-year sentence.

The third defendant, Zoran Vukovic, was found guilty on four charges of rape, torture, and he was given a lighter sentence of 12 years, because several other counts had not been proven. But one of the acts that he was accused of was raping a 15-year-old girl. The judge said that the trial had shown that he had told that 15-year-old girl that, because she was the same age as his own daughter, he let off her off lightly, or he would have done a lot worse to her -- this according to trial testimony. And the judge said that reflected his depraved character.

So this, a very, very important verdict and sentence in terms of the precedent-setting nature of it, the first time that mass rape has been prosecuted and solely focused on and the first time that enslavement in a sexual capacity has been found as a charge and a sentence in these war crimes trials -- Colleen.

MCEDWARDS: All right, CNN's Christiane Amanpour, thanks very much.

And just to point out the pictures we are showing you there while she was talking -- with the first Serb convicted, Dragoljub Kunarac -- all three soldiers in this precedent-setting case.

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