Former Serbian president acquitted of war crimes charges

Former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic was acquitted Feb. 26 of all charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Five other former high-ranking Yugoslav officials were convicted of crimes against humanity that same day. Of the five, former Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, Yugoslav Army General Nebojsa Pavkovic and Serbian Police General Sreten Lukic were each sentenced to 22 years in prison, and former Yugoslav Army General Vladimir Lazarevic and Chief of General Staff Dragoljub Ojdanic were each sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The charges stemmed from crimes allegedly committed during the 1999 ethnic conflicts in Kosova, which included the deportation of 800,000 Kosovar Albanian civilians and the forcible transfer, murder and persecution of Kosovar Albanians at the hands of Serbian troops. The ICTY held that Milutinovic had not substantially contributed to the criminal enterprise and that he did not have actual control over these forces.

Milutinovic took over as president of Serbia in 1997 after Slobodan Milosevic ended his presidency, but Milutinovic reportedly continued to stay in close contact with Milosevic and carry out his policies. The Milutinovic trial was one of the largest and most complex in the ICTY’s history as it included testimony from over 235 witnesses and included over 4,300 exhibits. The ICTY has indicted nine of the most senior Serb and Yugoslav officials for the crimes committed during the Kosova conflict. In total the Tribunal has indicted 161 people for human rights violations allegedly committed in the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001, and 116 of the proceedings have been completed. (Jurist, Feb. 26)

See our last post on the Balkans, Kosova and the ex-Yugoslavia and the trials of Milan Milutinovic.

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