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Verdict Expected Thursday Srebrenica Case - 2001-08-01

Judges at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal will hand down their verdict Thursday against Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic. The most senior Bosnian Serb to stand trial, General Krstic is accused of directing the worst crime of the Bosnian war - the 1995 slaughter of thousands of Muslim men and boys after the fall of the U.N.-declared safe haven, Srebrenica.

The 15 month long trial of General Radislav Krstic is widely considered the most important to come before the tribunal so far. The general is charged with genocide for his alleged role in Europe's worst massacres since World War II.

Prosecutors say that after Bosnian Serbs captured what was supposed to be the U.N. safe area of Srebrenica, in July 1995, they systematically executed at least 7,500 Muslim men and boys. It is alleged that as leader of the Drina Corps, General Krstic, a 53-year-old career soldier, commanded the troops that committed the crimes.

Prosecutors have asked the tribunal to sentence General Krstic to consecutive life sentences for each of the eight counts against him, virtually assuring that the general would spend the rest of his life behind bars. But defense lawyers, who have argued that General Krstic was not in command at the time and that it was really Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic who was in charge, have asked for acquittals on all counts. They do not deny the crimes took place - they just insist the general was not involved.

The general's lawyers also say that what happened at Srebrenica was not genocide. In order to prove genocide, prosecutors have to convince the tribunal, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the crimes were committed with the intention of wiping out, in part or in whole, Srebrenica's Muslim community. If prosecutors are successful, it will be the first genocide conviction of the Bosnian war.

For journalist Julija Bogoeva, who has been covering the tribunal for the independent Yugoslav news agency Beta, that is significant in order to set the historical record straight. "It is important," he said, "because when the record is set in this way, it will be more difficult for all those forces which always exist, the revisionist forces, those that will always be attempting to rewrite history, to deny that that's what happened."

What happened, say prosecutors, was the destruction of Srebrenica's Muslim community over the course of five days in the summer of 1995. They say General Krstic had the benefit of a trial, something his victims did not. Now they are hoping that six years after the crimes, they can at least offer the survivors a sense of justice.