General who led siege of Sarajevo jailed for 33 years by UN war crimes tribunal

12 December 2007 –

A former Bosnian Serb army general who commanded much of the prolonged siege of Sarajevo has been sentenced to 33 years in prison by the United Nations war crimes tribunal set up to deal with the worst crimes committed during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which sits in The Hague, today found Dragomir Milošević guilty of five counts of murder, inflicting terror and committing inhumane acts and acquitted him on two charges of unlawful attacks against civilians.

Announcing the verdict and the sentence, the ICTY trial chamber said that Bosnian Serb forces led by Mr. Milošević had encircled and entrapped the city of Sarajevo for a 15-month period ending in November 1995, carrying out an indiscriminate campaign of sniping and shelling that resulted in death and injury to many civilians.

“There was no safe place in Sarajevo; one could be killed or injured anywhere and anytime,” many witnesses testified during the trial.

The judges also noted that modified air bombs were used by Mr. Milošević’s forces even though they were inaccurate and served no military purpose.

In one of the most notorious incidents during the siege, Bosnian Serb forces fired mortar shells at Sarajevo’s Markele Market on 28 August 1995, killing 34 civilians and wounding 78 others. ICTY judges rejected the argument of defence lawyers that the army of Bosnia and Herzegovina had staged the market attack.

Mr. Milošević, 65, who is not related to the former Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević, had pleaded not guilty to all charges. His predecessor as head of the forces laying siege to Sarajevo, Stanislav Galić, has already been convicted by the ICTY and sentenced to life in prison.

Meanwhile, the ICTY appeals chamber granted a former senior officer of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) provisional release from jail pending the hearing of his appeal.

Veselin Šljivancanin is serving a five-year sentence after being found guilty of one count of aiding and abetting torture relating to the beatings of Croatian prisoners of war at Ovcara, near Vukovar, in late 1991.

The appeal judges said the fact that Mr. Šljivancanin has already served nearly 90 per cent of his sentence meant his provisional release was appropriate. He must remain within Serbia, surrender his passport to police and he is not allowed to discuss the case with the media nor interfere in any way with victims or witnesses.

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