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

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid