Leader of breakaway Croatian Serb state convicted and jailed by UN tribunal

12 June 2007

The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia today sentenced a former political leader of rebel Serbs in Croatia to 35 years’ prison after convicting him for his role in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia today sentenced a former political leader of rebel Serbs in Croatia to 35 years’ prison after convicting him for his role in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Milan Martić was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on 16 counts, including persecutions, murder, torture, deportation, attacks on civilians, the wanton destruction of civilian areas and other crimes against humanity and violations of laws and customs of war. He was acquitted on one count of extermination.

Mr. Martić served variously as President, Defence Minister and Interior Minister of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK), a breakaway part of southern Croatia, between 1991 and 1995.

ICTY judges found that Mr. Martić had engaged in a joint criminal enterprise with at least 11 others, including former Yugoslav president Slobodan Miloševic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžic, to create a unified greater Serbian state by undertaking a campaign of crimes against non-Serbs living in certain parts of Croatia – including Krajina – and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

RSK lasted from 1991 to 1995, when Croatian forces brought it back under control of Zagreb.

As president of RSK, Mr. Martić was in control of its armed forces, the judges found, adding that he had abused his positions “and promoted an atmosphere in which the non-Serb population was subjected to widespread and systematic crimes.”

Mr. Martić was also convicted of ordering rocket attacks on downtown Zagreb in May 1995 that killed seven people and wounded more than 200 others. Two days after the attacks he gave a radio interview admitting he had personally ordered the shelling of the city.

In determining the sentence, the judges said they noted that virtually the entire Croat and other non-Serb population was expelled from the area under Mr. Martić’s control, as well as the fact that most of the crimes he committed were against civilians, the elderly and detainees.