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10 Years Prison Sentence For Former Bosnian Police Chief - 2001-07-31


A former police chief from the Bosnian town of Bosanski Samac has been sentenced to ten years in prison for persecuting Muslims and Croats in 1992 and 1993. Bosnian Serb Stevan Todorovic, who pleaded guilty to one count of crimes against humanity, was sentenced following an earlier plea bargain with prosecutors.

Saying the crime was particularly grave, Judge Patrick Robinson pronounced the ten-year sentence on a somber looking Steven Todorovic. The sentence was twice as long as his defense lawyers had argued for. "The trial chamber reiterates the very grave nature of Steven Todorovic's crime," Judge Robinson said. "In particular, it is recalled that the crime of persecution is the only crime against humanity that requires that the perpetrator act with a discriminatory intent. It is found that the gravity of Steven Todorovic's criminal conduct was aggravated by his superior position and by the manner in which the crimes were committed."

Todorovic pleaded guilty to one count of persecution last December, admitting that he participated in the murder of one man, the beating and torture of several others and the sexual assault of six men at the police station in Bosanski Samac, which he headed.

Prosecutors indicted him with five others - one of whom has since been killed - for orchestrating an ethnic cleansing campaign against Muslims and Croats in Bosanski Samac during the early years of the Bosnian war. In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop all 26 other counts against him. In addition, Todorovic agreed to testify in other trials and to drop legal proceedings against NATO. Todorovic had argued his arrest was illegal and was seeking documents from NATO that would prove it.

Todorovic is only the third person to enter a guilty plea before this court. That, say judges, worked in his favor. The Hague war crimes tribunal has limited resources, and judges noted that Todorovic's guilty plea contributes to the court's efficiency and its search for truth.

Also in his favor, the tribunal ruled, was his substantial cooperation with prosecutors and his remorse. During his sentencing hearing earlier this year, Todorovic said he lacked the courage to prevent what he called inhuman acts toward non-Serbs, something he deeply regrets and prays to God daily to forgive him for. If it wasn't for these factors, said Judge Robinson, Todorovic would have received a much longer sentence. He will soon be transferred to another country to serve out the remaining eight years of his sentence. But he will be back in The Hague as a witness later this year, when the trial of the four other men accused with him gets underway.

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