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Bosnian Serb guilty of war crimes, cleared of murder

Prosecution May 7, 1997
Web posted at: 10:38 a.m. EDT (1438 GMT)

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CNN) -- A Bosnian Serb prison guard was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity on Wednesday by the U.N. tribunal for former Yugoslavia. Dusan Tadic, 41, was cited for his part in a Serb "ethnic cleansing" campaign against Muslims during the Bosnian war.


He was convicted on 11 of 31 charges -- but cleared of murder -- in the first international war crimes verdict since World War II when tribunals in Nuremberg, Germany, and Tokyo sent 17 Axis leaders to the gallows.

Charged with murder and torture in and around three Serb-run camps in northwest Bosnia in 1992, Tadic looked pale and shocked as he heard presiding judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald of the United States pronounce him guilty on 11 counts of persecution and beatings.

Attorney says client will appeal

The panel of three judges found him not guilty on nine counts of murder and declared a further 11 charges inapplicable. Rape charges were dropped by the prosecution after alleged victims refused to testify.

Tadic's lawyer, Milan Vujin, said he would appeal. Tadic "is not satisfied because he said, 'I'm not guilty,'" Vujin said. The decision to appeal appeared likely to delay a July 1 sentencing hearing.

Tadic, who has been in prison more than three years, had faced a life sentence for any of the murder charges, but it was unclear what maximum penalty Tadic faced given that he was cleared of those charges.

Tribunal insists trial was fair

McDonald said that despite the high-profile nature of the case, the judges' main concern had been to give Tadic a fair trial. "This, we believe, has been done," she said.

Richard Goldstone, the U.N. tribunal's former chief prosecutor, said the verdict legitimizes the international effort to bring Tadic to trial.

The U.N. tribunal's former chief prosecutor comments on:
Goldstone icon the precedent set by the decision
(247K/22 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
icon the credibility of the tribunal
(191K/17 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

"Our concern at all times ... has been that trials by the tribunal should be seen as fair," he told CNN in a live interview. "No finger can be pointed at the tribunal or the prosecution team in that regard."

Ruthless killer or victim?

During seven months of hearings last year, prosecutors portrayed Tadic as a ruthless killer and buttressed that contention with the testimony of 11 eyewitnesses, all but one of whom said they were acquainted with Tadic before the war.

Prosecutors alleged that Tadic had rounded up his former Muslim neighbors in the Prijedor region of northwest Bosnia in 1992 and had tortured, raped and killed them at Serb-run prison camps.

Slide show of scenes
from the Trnopolje camp during the war.

movie icon (104K/33 sec./160x120 Smaller frame QuickTime movie or 251K/33 sec./320x240 Larger frame QuickTime movie)

Tadic has always denied the charges. Defense lawyers painted a picture of the accused as a man forced to flee Bosnia by his own people after refusing to fight in the war.

They said Tadic was a victim of Muslims' desire to find a scapegoat for their suffering at the hands of the Serbs.

Guilty of taking part in attacks

Bosnia map

The former bar-owner and father of two girls was found guilty of taking part in Serb attacks on his hometown of Kozarac and other villages and herding the inhabitants into camps where they were beaten and kept in inhuman conditions.

The tribunal found him guilty of complicity in the killing of two policemen but cleared him of other murders, saying conclusive evidence had not been presented to support those charges.

Tadic also was cleared of direct involvement in one of the worst atrocities mentioned in the indictment in which a prisoner in the notorious Omarska camp was forced to bite off the testicles of another prisoner.

A prisoner who witnessed that event testified he did not see Tadic on that occasion.

74 other suspects, most still at large

Tadic is one of eight war crimes suspects held at the Hague tribunal's 24-cell detention center. To date, indictments have been issued against 75 suspects in the aftermath of the 3 1/2 year Bosnian war, which ended in 1995.

Most of the tribunal's cases against the 74 others lack physical evidence and, like the Tadic case, will rely on witnesses.

The former Bosnian Serb political and military leaders, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, both indicted for genocide against the Bosnian Muslims, are among those still at large.

Authorities in various parts of the former Yugoslavia have given only limited cooperation to the tribunal while NATO-led peacekeepers have refused to hunt down and arrest suspects.

Correspondent Patricia Kelly and Reuters contributed to this report.


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