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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid