News / Europe

Ex-Yugoslav Army Leader Acquitted of War Crimes

Gen. Momcilo Perisic, former chief of staff of the Yugoslav national army, right, talks to his lawyer prior to appeal judgment The Hague, Feb. 28, 2013.
Gen. Momcilo Perisic, former chief of staff of the Yugoslav national army, right, talks to his lawyer prior to appeal judgment The Hague, Feb. 28, 2013.
Reuters
The former head of the Yugoslav army was acquitted on Thursday of charges of aiding and abetting atrocities committed in Bosnia and Croatia during the 1990s, in a ruling that was condemned by victims but welcomed by Serb officials.
 
United Nations war crimes judges said Momcilo Perisic had provided legitimate military support to the ethnic Serb Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) forces in Bosnia, but ruled he had not ordered them to commit war crimes.
 
"While Mr. Perisic may have known of VRS crimes, the Yugoslav Army aid he facilitated was directed towards the VRS's general war effort rather than VRS crimes," said Theodor Meron, president of the appeals chamber at the tribunal in The Hague.
 
Pressed in a charcoal-grey suit and a black tie, a stern-faced Perisic, 68, showed no emotion as Meron read out the acquittal and ordered his immediate release.
 
Rebel Serbs fought to carve out an ethnically Serb state in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995 after its Muslims and Croats voted for independence from Serbian-led federal Yugoslavia.
 
Judges said he also was innocent of ordering Serbian forces to shell the Croatian capital Zagreb.
 
Serb forces committed some of the gravest crimes in post-war European history during Yugoslavia's break-up, including the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, and the siege of Sarajevo in which more than 10,000 civilians died.
 
The acquittal means the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has not convicted a single Belgrade official for involvement in crimes in Bosnia and Croatia, which claimed tens of thousands of lives.
 
"We are still digging up the bones of our sons, and we know all the evil came from Serbia," said Munira Subasic, whose husband and son were killed in Srebrenica.
 
The court put Slobodan Milosevic, the long-serving Yugoslav president who appointed Perisic and presided over the break-up of multi-ethnic Yugoslavia, on trial but he died in detention in 2006 before its conclusion.
 
Serbia Welcomes Verdict
 
Serbian officials welcomed the verdict, which follows the acquittal on appeal last year of Ante Gotovina, the Croatian general who led the counter-attack that took the Croatian region of Krajina back from Serb forces.
 
While Croatia has been welcomed back into the international fold and will join the European Union this July, Gotovina's acquittal fueled a belief in Serbia that the ICTY was an instrument of an international community that was biased against Serbs.
 
"This ruling is extremely important for Serbia," said Bruno Vekaric, the Serbian war crimes prosecutor. "They have concluded that General Perisic did not violate the customs of war ... as a member of the Yugoslav Army."
 
Lower court judges sentenced him to 27 years in prison in 2011 after a six-year trial. They said he regularly met and provided guidance to Serb commanders in Bosnia and Croatia, providing them with millions of bullets and thousands of shells.
 
But appeals judges accepted defense claims that Perisic was implementing policy set by Milosevic, the Yugoslav president, and that he had provided legitimate support to armies that were engaged in fighting a war.
 
Gregor Guy-Smith, Perisic's lawyer, welcomed a "common-sense" verdict.
 
But Pedrag Matic, Croatia's minister for war veterans said his country would respect a verdict it disagreed with.
 
"We have to trust the Hague tribunal's decisions, even if we personally don't agree with them," he said.
 
While Gotovina immediately was flown back by government jet to a rapturous welcome in Croatia's main public square following his acquittal, Perisic's lawyers said his return would be a more low-key journey on a scheduled flight to Belgrade on Friday.

You May Like

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid