THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal on Wednesday convicted two senior Bosnian Serbs of playing important roles in a campaign of murder, torture and persecution targeting Muslims and Croats during the 1992-95 Bosnian war and sentenced them each to 22 years' imprisonment.
Mico Stanisic was interior minister in the breakaway Bosnian Serb republic set up during his country's bitter war, while Stojan Zupljanin was a senior security official in charge of police.
Presiding Judge Burton Hall said both men were in a position to prevent or punish crimes and did neither as Serb police and paramilitaries went on a rampage of killing and mistreatment of non-Serbs early in 1992 as they tried to carve out a "Greater Serbia" during the bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia.
He said the men "both intended and significantly contributed to the plan to remove Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from the territory of the planned Serbian state."
Zupljanin stood and crossed himself as Hall said he was guilty of persecution, extermination, murder and torture. Stanisic stood stoically as he was convicted of persecution, murder and torture. He was acquitted of extermination.
Zupljanin was convicted of extermination in part because he set up a notorious police unit which the court ruled "committed heinous crimes against Muslims and Croats, including rape, torture and murder" and that he deliberately shielded police under his command from prosecution in at least two massacres of Muslims.
Prosecutors had sought life sentences for both men after charging them with involvement in a criminal conspiracy led by Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic and his military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic, to force Muslims and Croats out of what they considered to be Serb territory in Bosnia.
Both Karadzic and Mladic are still on trial at the U.N. court on charges including genocide for allegedly masterminding the slaughter, persecution and mass deportation of non-Serbs during the Bosnian war that left more than 100,000 people dead.
The tribunal has indicted 161 people for roles in atrocities in the former Yugoslavia over a decade starting in 1991, most of them Serbs. Only six trials remain to be completed.