Bosnian Serb former general Dragomir Milosevic in the tribunal courtroom at The Hague. Photograph: Koen van Weel/EPA/Pool
A UN war crimes tribunal today sentenced a Bosnian Serb general who led the long siege of Sarajevo, one of the most infamous events during the war in the former Yugoslavia, to 33 years in jail.
Gen Dragomir Milosevic orchestrated the closing 15 months of the 1992-1995 siege, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague ruled. It found him guilty of murder, inhumane treatment and overseeing a campaign of terror that indiscriminately fired shells and bombs into the city, killing thousands of civilians.
“There was no safe place in Sarajevo,” said the presiding judge, Patrick Robinson, reading from the judgment. “One could be killed and injured anywhere and any time.”
Milosevic, 65, sat listening to a summary of the lengthy judgment in silence, before standing as Robinson pronounced the sentence.
The Sarajevo siege was one of the darkest chapters of the Balkan war, as well as perhaps the best documented, with television pictures showing shells slamming into buildings in the medieval walled city and women and children sheltering from indiscriminate sniper fire.
Alma Cutuna was one of the victims highlighted in the verdict. Shrapnel grazed her head and a sniper’s bullet severed an artery in her leg as she stood on a crowded tram in Sarajevo.
The day she was shot, October 8, 1994, was supposed to be a ceasefire, the tribunal heard. But as the tram slowed to negotiate a bend on a street known as Sniper Alley, gunfire rang out. One person was killed and 11 wounded, including children running near the tram. Cutuna was saved by emergency surgery.
Another notorious episode carried out by Milosevic’s troops was the shelling of Markale Market on August 28, 1995, which killed 34 people and injured 78.
The shell landed near Mesuda Klaric and her husband, Ismet. As she regained consciousness, her husband told her, “I lost my arm,” according to the judgment. He was rushed into surgery but did not survive, Klaric told the judges.
“One of the police officers who investigated the incident described what he saw as ‘the last, deepest circle of Dante’s Hell,”‘ the judges wrote.
The “evidence discloses a horrific tale of encirclement and entrapment of a city … and its bombardment” by Bosnian Serb forces under Milosevic’s command, said the ruling.
Milosevic, commander of 18,000 Bosnian Serb troops who besieged Sarajevo between August 1994 and November 1995, had denied all charges, arguing that the city was a battleground and his forces were carrying out legitimate military operations.
Robinson rejected this, saying the evidence showed the general “planned and ordered gross and systematic violations of international humanitarian law”.
Milosevic, who turned himself in to the court three years ago, was indicted in 1998 along with Stanislav Galic, his predecessor as commander of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Sarajevo Romanija Corps. Galic was tried separately for his role in the Sarajevo siege. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years but that was raised to a life sentence by an appeal court in November 2006. Guardian