Europe

Bosnian Serb Zdravko Tolimir convicted over Srebrenica

Zdravko Tolimir waits for the the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal to deliver its judgment in The Hague, 12 December 2012 Image copyright AP
Image caption Tolimir presented his own defence and was warned about 'disruptive conduct'

A Bosnian Serb former general has been sentenced to life in prison for genocide during the Bosnian war at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Zdravko Tolimir was convicted for his involvement in the killings of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995.

Tolimir, 64, was arrested in Serbia in 2007 after two years on the run.

Judges said the former intelligence chief was the "right hand" of Ratko Mladic, also on trial at The Hague.

Three judges on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found Tolimir jointly responsible for some of the most notorious crimes against humanity committed by Serb forces during the 1992-95 conflict.

"The accused not only had knowledge of genocidal intent of others but also possessed it himself," said Presiding Judge Christoph Fluegge.

"He is therefore responsible for the crime of genocide."

'Disruptive conduct'

Tolimir stood, removed his glasses and crossed himself three times as the verdict was read out, but showed no emotion as he was told he would spend the rest of his life in prison.

Before the verdict was delivered, he said: "I wish for these proceedings to be concluded in accordance with God's will."

The 64-year-old had defended himself throughout the trial, arguing that the killings at Srebrenica were part of a military operation against terrorists rather than a massacre.

He was given warnings about "disruptive conduct" in court.

Since his arrival in The Hague there had been concerns about his poor health and high blood pressure, says the BBC's Anna Holligan in The Hague.

Military commander Mladic and his political leader Radovan Karadzic are still on trial at the ICTY for overseeing Serb atrocities during the conflict, in which some 100,000 people died.

Gen Tolimir was in charge of intelligence and security for the Bosnian Serb army during the war, and reported directly to Gen Mladic.

He was accused of knowingly participating in the forced expulsion of Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) from the Srebrenica and Zepa enclaves, in the knowledge that "individual killings would occur as a result of the joint criminal enterprise".

"It was his men... who were at the detention and execution and burial sites, making sure that murder operation did its evil work until the last bullet was fired and the last body buried," said the prosecution.

He was also accused of the cruel and inhumane treatment of Bosniak civilians who were detained at Bratunac and Zvornik, as well as the destruction and theft of Bosniak property.

He was accused of helping disable UN troops during the Bosnian Serb attack on Srebrenica by lying to Unprofor, the UN contingent in Bosnia at the time.

After the signing of the Dayton peace accords he served as Bosnian military representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

He then worked as an adviser to Biljana Plavsic, the former president of Republika Srpska, before retiring from the army in 1997.

In February 2005 the Hague tribunal indicted him for war crimes.

Srebrenica massacre
6 - 10 July 1995: The Bosnian Serb Army attacks Srebrenica - within a UN safe area previously held by the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Civilians taking refuge there are under the protection of Dutch forces.
Srebrenica massacre
11 July: Thousands of refugees and Srebrenica residents - mostly women, children and the infirm - flee to the Dutch UN peacekeeping base in Potocari. Bosnian Serb commanders demand Muslims hand over their weapons.
Srebrenica massacre
12 July: Bosnian Muslim men of military age begin to move north after gathering in Susnjari. They are shelled as they flee through the mountains. Some are also gunned down en route, while others are killed after surrendering.
Srebrenica massacre
12 July: Male and female refugees are separated by the Bosnian Serb Army. Thousands of women, children and the elderly are deported by bus to Muslim territory. The men are held in trucks and warehouses.
Srebrenica massacre
13 - 17 July: Up to 8,000 Bosniak men and boys are killed at a number of execution sites around Srebrenica. Reports of the atrocities begin to surface on 16 July. Source: UN, ICTY.
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