A war crimes court in Bosnia-Herzegovina has handed down the harshest sentences yet to four former members of the Bosnian Serb Army, who were convicted of taking part in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
The court in Sarajevo on Friday sentenced Stanko Kojic to 43 years in prison. Franc Kos and Zoran Goronja were handed down 40 years in jail, and Vlastimir Golijan was given a 19-year sentence for taking part in the killings.
The massacre took place in an enclave of eastern Bosnia that the United Nations had designated a "safe area," in which battles were not to be fought. Over several days in July of 1995, some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were taken out of Srebrenica, summarily executed and buried in mass graves.
The four defendants were convicted of taking part in the killings about 800 of them at a military farm Branjevo, near the enclave.
The judge noted that the men took breaks from the executions to eat lunch and drink beer while surrounded by the bodies of the victims. She said those actions indicated the killers' systematic attitude toward taking the victims' lives.
While the United Nations has labeled the massacre a genocide, the four men sentenced Friday were convicted of wars against humanity because found that the "genocide intent" was not proven.
Boris Grubesic, a spokesman for the prosecution, said the prosecution intends to appeal that verdict and seek that the crime be qualified as genocide.
All four were under the command of then Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic who is currently on trial for genocide at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.