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updated: 12/12/2012 9:41 AM

UN court convicts Bosnian Serb of genocide

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  • Zdravko Tolimir, right, a former high-ranking Bosnian Serb army officer charged with crimes including genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, crosses himself as he waits for the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal to deliver its judgment. The tribunal convicted him and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

      Zdravko Tolimir, right, a former high-ranking Bosnian Serb army officer charged with crimes including genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, crosses himself as he waits for the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal to deliver its judgment. The tribunal convicted him and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

 
Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal convicted a former senior Bosnian Serb Army commander Wednesday of genocide for playing a key role in Europe's worst massacre since World War II and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Judges at the U.N. court said Gen. Zdravko Tolimir was the "right hand" of Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic, who is considered the chief architect of the murder of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys at the Srebrenica enclave in eastern Bosnia in July 1995.

"The accused not only had knowledge of genocidal intent of others but also possessed it himself," Presiding Judge Christoph Fluegge said. "He is therefore responsible for the crime of genocide."

Tolimir stood, crossed himself three times and removed his glasses but showed no emotion as Fluegge told him he had been convicted of genocide and would spend the rest of his life in prison.

Before the judgment was read, he told the court: "I wish for these proceedings to be concluded in accordance with God's will."

Tolimir, 64, is the latest Serb soldier to be convicted of genocide in the bloody climax of Bosnia's 1992-95 war that left around 100,000 dead.

Mladic and his political master Radovan Karadzic are still on trial for overseeing Serb atrocities throughout the Bosnian War, including the Srebrenica massacre.

Tolimir was the top Bosnian Serb intelligence officer and a trusted aide of Mladic. Witnesses called him Mladic's "right hand. His eyes and ears," Fluegge said. Tolimir had, Fluegge added, "full knowledge of the despicable criminal operations" of Bosnian Serb forces who carried out the massacre.

Bosnian Serb forces overran Srebrenica in 1995 despite the presence of Dutch United Nations peacekeepers, who -- outgunned and outnumbered -- put up virtually no resistance.

Women were bussed away from the area before the Muslim men and boys were rounded up, taken to remote locations around the town and executed before their bodies were plowed into mass graves.

"The suffering these men went through in the moments leading up to their deaths must have been unbearable. On many occasions those waiting to be shot saw others executed," Fluegge said.

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