43 years in jail for murder of 16 Serbs in Kotor Varos
SARAJEVO - The Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) sentenced to 43 years in prison four people accused of a war crime which claimed the lives of 16 Serb civilians in the area of Kotor Varos, south of Republika Srpska, during the civil war in BiH.
Members of the Muslim forces Fikret Planincic and Sead Menzil were sentenced to 11 years each, Mirsad Vatrac got 10 and a half years, while Rasim Lisancic was condemned to nine and a half years in jail.
They were found guilty of participation in the attack on the village of Serdare in the municipality of Kotor Varos on September 17, 1992 and the murder of Serb civilians, states the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN).
The defendents were members of a group of 20 belonging first to the Territorial Defence of Kotor Varos and later the 7th Brigade of the BiH Armed Forces, which operated in the village of Serdari first using firearms and later explosive devices.
The attacked claimed the lives of 16 Serb civilians, Ljubomir Kitic, chairman of the Trial Chamber, said in the reasoning.
The defendants were aware of the attack on the village, which was not a legitimate military target, as their defense teams claimed, he said.
The Trial Chamber considered the facts that the attack killed two children and wounded a pregnant woman as aggravating circumstances, and the defendants' personal and family backgrounds, the fact that they have not been sentenced before and Lisancic's age as mitigating circumstances.
One of the key witnesses was Gina Serdar, who identified Planincic, Menzil and Vatrac, and she did not have any reason to charge them falsely.
“She described the events in a credible manner. Her statement was consistent and precise and corroborated by the statements of other witnesses,” judge Kitic said.
While the reasoning was read, Vatrac felt sick so he left the courtroom.
The verdict can be appealed, and the Trial Chamber has prolonged the prohibition of leaving the place of residence for the convicts and obliged them to report to the police three times a week.