TribLIVE

| USWorld


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Appeals panel clears Yugoslav army chief of Serb atrocities

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Associated Press
Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 7:24 p.m.
 

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — In a stunning reversal, U.N. appeals judges on Thursday acquitted the former chief of the Yugoslav National Army of aiding and abetting atrocities by rebel Serbs, including the Srebrenica massacre, by providing them with military aid during the Balkan wars.

Gen. Momcilo Perisic, a former close ally of ex-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, had been sentenced to 27 years in 2011 for his conviction of crimes including murder, inhumane acts and persecution. The judges ordered him freed immediately.

The judgment is a rare victory for Serbs at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, where most of the convicted suspects have been rebel Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia. It supported Belgrade's often-stated assertion that it did not deliberately assist in Bosnian Serb atrocities and underscores how hard it is for international courts to prosecute senior officials seen as pulling the strings but not acting directly.

The court's most ambitious attempt to link Belgrade to Balkan war atrocities ended inconclusively when Milosevic died of a heart attack in his cell in The Hague in 2006 before a verdict could be reached in his trial for fomenting violence throughout the region as the former Yugoslavia crumbled.

While linking senior officials in one country to crimes by rebels in another is difficult, it can be done.

Another high-profile case played out in a different Hague courtroom. Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, was convicted of aiding and abetting rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone during that African nation's brutal civil war. Taylor has appealed his conviction and 50-year sentence.

Perisic, wearing a dark suit and tie, looked down and raised his eyebrows as Presiding Judge Theodor Meron said his convictions were being overturned in a 4-1 ruling by the five-judge appeals panel.

His acquittal on appeal is final and cannot be further appealed.

It has long been known that Belgrade provided arms and other equipment to Bosnian Serb forces, but Meron said the aid was for the Bosnian Serb “war effort” and prosecutors failed to prove it was given with the “specific intent” for forces led by Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic to commit crimes.

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read World

  1. Bombed factories in Gaza raise ire
  2. Liberian slum sealed off as Ebola deaths mount
  3. Ukrainian troops regaining control
  4. Social media being used to help catch British terrorist who killed Foley
  5. Neanderthals, humans may have mingled, study finds
  6. N. Korea aims for Kerry’s jaw as string of insults continues
  7. 111-year-old from Japan recognized as oldest man
  8. Hamas insists terrorist leader still alive despite Israeli barrage
  9. Landslide in Japan leaves dozens dead
  10. Mideast crisis goes ‘from bad to worse’ as truce shatters
  11. Israel, Gaza militants trade fire after talks fail
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.