War crimes judges in The Hague have sentenced a Bosnian Serb army officer to 27 years in prison for massacres at Srebrenica. The sentence is higher than what prosecutors wanted for Momir Nikolic, the first Bosnian Serb army officer who cooperated with them and admitted his role in the 1995 execution of more than 7,000 Muslim men. After the sentence was announced, Momir Nikolic broke down and cried. Prosecutors wanted the self-confessed war criminal to get between 15 and 20 years for his role in coordinating the Srebrenica massacres.
His crimes were of the worst kind, they agreed, but as the first insider to come forward and give details about them, in addition to testifying against his former colleagues, prosecutors argued that Nikolic's sentence should be reduced.
Defense lawyers wanted just 10 years, saying their client's decision to come forward would help lead to reconciliation in the region.
Judge Liu Daqun explained why neither of those sentences were enough. He saw with his own eyes the separation of men from their families. He heard the cries of children as they saw their fathers taken away," he said. "He saw the fear in the eyes of the women pushed on to buses as they knew that the fate of their fathers, husbands, and sons was beyond their control."
The judges said Nikolic was at the center of criminal activity and that far from resisting any orders to help murder thousands of men and boys, he was an integral, pro-active part of the plan.
Nikolic pleaded guilty to one count of persecution earlier this year and agreed to testify against his former colleagues. In exchange, prosecutors dropped all the other charges against him, including genocide.