Bosnian Serb Gets 40-Year Sentence
A Bosnian Serb who nicknamed himself “Adolf” and allegedly boasted of killing up to a score of Muslims each day before his morning coffee was sentenced Tuesday to 40 years in prison, the harshest punishment yet handed down by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
Thirty-one-year-old Goran Jelisic stood impassively before the United Nations tribunal in The Hague as the sentence against him was read.
The presiding judge, Claude Jorda of France, said the acts of the former official at the infamous Luka prison in the northern Bosnian town of Brcko had “shocked the conscience of mankind.”
Jelisic was convicted Oct. 19 of 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He had pleaded guilty in the torture and murders of 13 Muslims and Croats in 1992, as the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina plunged into civil war.
During the trial, a parade of witnesses recounted how Jelisic pummeled his victims with clubs and pitched their bodies into a ditch or river. One witness said Jelisic had boasted publicly of killing 10 to 20 Muslims each day before breakfast.
An ex-farmer who, at age 23, was put in charge of 100 guards at the camp, Jelisic acknowledged taking his nickname in tribute to Hitler.
“Your scornful attitude toward your victims, your enthusiasm for committing the crimes, the inhumanity of the crimes and your dangerous nature [are] especially aggravating circumstances,” Jorda told him during sentencing.
Judges, however, had earlier thrown out a charge of genocide brought against the Bosnian Serb. Jorda said Tuesday that although Jelisic had engaged in “incontestably odious, discriminatory behavior,” it had not been proved that he acted “with the intention of destroying, wholly or partly, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”
The judge also said prosecutors had failed to prove that any act of genocide occurred.
Jelisic denied the claims of the prosecution that he had killed more than 100 people. The court’s ruling in his case indicated that the tribunal, created by the U.N. Security Council in 1993, will continue to apply a stringent standard to justify any conviction on grounds of genocide.
The tribunal to date has convicted eight suspects from the former Yugoslav federation of war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions, but it has found no one guilty of genocide.
Prosecutors had sought a life sentence for Jelisic, but spokesman Paul Risley said they were satisfied with the 40-year term. Risley also said they were considering whether to ask for reinstatement of the charge of genocide.
Veselin Londrovic, Jelisic’s lawyer, immediately said he would appeal the sentence.