SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Four former Bosnian Serb soldiers were handed the longest jail terms yet by the Sarajevo war crimes court on Friday for their role in the mass execution of hundreds of Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica during Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two.
The men were jailed for up to 43 years each for crimes against humanity for their part in the 1995 killings of about 800 men and boys at a farm during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.
“On July 16, 1995, they executed summarily around 800 male civilians, of whom some were under 16-years-old and some over 80-years-old, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. at the Branjevo farm,” Judge Mira Smajlovic said, reading the verdict.
The massacre was part of the systematic slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys after Bosnian Serb forces captured the U.N.-protected Srebrenica enclave in July 1995.
Stanko Kojic was jailed for 43 years, Franc Kos and Zoran Goronja for 40 years each, and Vlastimir Golijan for 19 years because he was under 21 at the time.
The maximum jail term is 45 years.
All the men shot their victims but the judge said Kojic had carried out the slaughter in a crueler manner than the others and then boasted about the number of people he had killed.
The soldiers had served with the Bosnian Serb army’s 10th commando unit. Kos led the unit’s First Bijeljina Platoon, and the other three were regular soldiers.
They were acquitted of genocide charges due to lack of evidence about their intention to commit genocide.
SHOOTING THOSE STILL ALIVE
During the attack on Srebrenica, Bosnian Serb troops commanded by General Ratko Mladic separated men and boys from women. Many of the men and boys tried to escape through woods but were hunted down, captured and slaughtered at several locations.
Hundreds of Muslim men, some with hands tied, were bussed to Branjevo farm from a nearby school where they had been kept in inhuman conditions. They were then lined up in groups with their backs to a firing squad who shot them with automatic rifles and guns, Judge Smajlovic said.
To expedite the process, the soldiers also fired from a machine gun, leaving many victims wounded. Kos and Kojic then searched for those who were still alive and shot them in the head, she said.
“They conducted the killings in a cold-blooded and systematic manner, clearly intending to kill these men on discriminatory grounds – because they were Muslims,” Smajlovic said, adding the soldiers had taken a lunch break between the killings.
The only two victims to have survived the killing acted as witnesses in the court case.
Bodies of the massacre victims had been first buried in a mass grave but later dug out with bulldozers and transferred to other locations to cover up the crime.
The Bosnian war crimes court has jailed dozens of former Bosnian Serb soldiers over the Srebrenica massacre. In May, two were jailed for 35 and 30 years each, previously the longest terms handed down.
Mladic is on trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague on genocide charges over Srebrenica and the siege of Sarajevo.
(Reporting By Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Sophie Hares)