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Bosnian Serb war criminal gets 20-year sentence

tadic July 14, 1997
Web posted at: 2:56 p.m. EDT (1856 GMT)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CNN) -- International prosecutors hailed Monday's prison sentence of Bosnian Serb war criminal Dusan Tadic as a milestone, saying it proved that war criminals can be held accountable by an international court. But Serb leaders said the verdict proved an anti-Serb bias by the court.

The United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague found Tadic guilty on 11 counts of crimes against humanity. The longest prison term was 20 years and the other sentences were ordered to run concurrently.

Judges said Tadic should serve at least 10 years. However, plans for an appeal are already under way, and the final outcome of the Tadic case may not be known for up to a year.

Survivors of three notorious Serb-run prison camps in the northwestern Prijedor region of Bosnia -- Omarska, Trnopolje and Keraterm -- had testified that Tadic regularly visited the camps to torture inmates during the Bosnian war.

Presiding Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald said the former karate teacher and cafe owner had carried out the crimes "intentionally, and with sadistic brutality, using knives, whips, iron bars, the butt of a pistol, sticks and by ... tightening a noose around the neck of one of them until he lost consciousness."

The judge said the sentence against Tadic was justified by the nationalism and lack of scruples shown by the accused.

"You carried out these acts with extreme brutality. You also identified with the extreme principles of Serbian nationalism. Now you must accept responsibility for your criminal behaviors," she told Tadic.

Tribunal deputy prosecutor Graham Blewitt described the court ruling as "a substantial sentence" and said it marked "a significant step in the work of the tribunal."


However, Tadic's attorney said the international court overreacted.

"I think that it is a very severe sentence and I think that what the court does is to place the defendant really at the top of the ladder. The fact is he was a very small player," attorney Nikola Kostich said.

A Bosnian Serb government member, deputy justice minister Goran Neskovic, criticized the sentence as an anti-Serb propaganda war. And Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serb member of Bosnia's multi-ethnic collective presidency, said on Monday that the court had passed a "political sentence."

Krajisnik is said to be a close ally of indicted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb president. And hard-line Serbs are concerned that Western countries led by the United States will become more aggressive in enforcing the U.N. court's indictments, and may try to arrest Karadzic and his wartime army commander Ratko Mladic.

Observers say there are signs that such actions may be building, following last week's capture of a suspected Bosnian Serb war criminal by United Nations-led forces. A second suspect was shot dead in the operation.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said he did not want to see a repeat of what Moscow called "cowboy raids." Primakov said Russia considered the swoops by NATO as counter-productive and he maintained they did nothing to improve the situation in the region.

Correspondent Jackie Shymanski and Reuters contributed to this report.


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