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CNN Today

War Crimes Tribunal Sentences Bosnian-Croat General to 45 Years

Aired March 3, 2000 - 2:36 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: At The Hague today, the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal sentenced a Bosnian-Croat general to 45 years in prison. He is the highest ranking suspect tried by the court.

And as CNN's Patricia Kelly reports, his sentence is the stiffest yet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICIA KELLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): General Blaskic's wife collapsed sobbing when the verdict and sentence were read out. Both she and her husband were said to have firmly believed he would be acquitted of all 19 charges against him, that there was no evidence and he was not responsible for the systematic attacks on Bosnian Muslim cities, towns and villages in central Bosnia he was accused of. But War Crimes Tribunal judges believed differently.

CLAUDE JORDA, PRESIDING JUDGE (through translator): Consequent to the trial, chamber sentences you to a prison sentence of 45 years.

KELLY: It's the longest sentence ever handed down by the tribunal.

JIM LANDALE, TRIBUNAL SPOKESMAN: General Blaskic was by far the most senior individual to have been tried by the tribunal.

KELLY: Blaskic surrendered voluntarily and judges paid tribute to the deference he had shown them throughout. They also conceded he did not personally kill, injure or torture anyone, but he was found guilty on the basis of individual and superior criminal responsibility. And judges ruled he personally ordered a significant number of attacks and failed to prevent or punish crimes committed by subordinates.

JORDA (through translator): The crimes you committed, General Blaskic, are extremely serious, the acts of war carried out with disregard for international humanitarian law and in hatred of other people.

Muslims, women, children, and the old included, forced out forced out of their homes in order to be killed, Muslims who hid under their beds, in their cellars, and who were burned alive in the flames of their houses. KELLY: Defense attorneys say they do intend to appeal.

ANTO NOBILO, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We believe that nobody never proved that Blaskic order any crime. Maybe he can be guilty that he did not punish somebody.

KELLY: Privately, friends and government officials believed General Blaskic would be held up as an example and risked at least 20 years. The landmark 45-year sentence came as a shock.

(on camera): Throughout the trial, which lasted more than two years, General Blaskic maintained he had no control over renegade forces and civilian police he said carried out the crimes. But prosecutors argued successfully, as a career officer, he was expected to know about the Geneva Convention governing the rules of war and the protection of civilians.

Patricia Kelly, CNN, The Hague.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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