Former Bosnian Croat militia leader jailed for 12 years by UN war crimes court

8 May 2006 –

A United Nations war crimes court today sentenced a former Bosnian Croat militia commander to 12 years in jail for an attack a dozen years ago on a village in which 31 Muslim civilians were killed, including two elderly women burned in their house and a family of seven who perished in the flames of their shelter.

Ivica Rajic, former commander of the Second Operational Group of the Bosnian Croat Army, last October pleaded guilty to four of the 10 charges against him: wilful killing, inhuman treatment, extensive destruction, and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), sitting in The Hague, Netherlands, found that the crimes in the central Bosnian village of Stupni Do in October 1993 “were committed on a large scale, were of particularly violent nature and caused severe pain to the victims and their relatives.”

Mr. Rajic was also sentenced for his role in the rounding up of more than 250 Muslim men in the nearby town of Vares and their subsequent inhuman treatment.

As aggravating circumstances in the Stupni Do attack, the court cited the examples of “two elderly women, one of whom was an invalid, [who] were found burned inside a house and that seven members of the same Muslim family (two men, three women and two children aged 2 and 3 years old) were found burned inside their shelter.”

The court noted the importance of the role Mr. Rajic played in these events when, following orders of his own superiors, he planned and ordered the attacks and further ordered the rounding up of Muslim civilians, knowing the substantial likelihood that criminal acts would ensue following these orders.

As mitigating circumstances, the court held that Mr. Rajic’s guilty plea helped to establish the truth surrounding the crimes committed in Stupni Do and Vares. “This may contribute to the reconciliation of the peoples of the former SFRY (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) and to the restoration of a lasting peace in the region,” it added.

It also took into account Mr. Rajic's remorse, as expressed in the statement he gave at his sentencing hearing, as well as his cooperation with the Prosecution and his personal circumstances. He will remain in the custody of the Tribunal until he is transferred to a State to serve his sentence.

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