THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The former leader of Bosnia’s Muslim army, Rasim Delic, was sentenced on Monday to three years in jail by a U.N. war crimes tribunal for allowing the torture of Bosnian Serb soldiers by Islamic foreign fighters.
Judge Bakone Justice Moloto, citing the “appalling brutal” mistreatment meted out by Islamic foreign fighters during the 1992-95 Bosnia war, said that tribunal judges had decided by majority that Delic was guilty of one count of cruel treatment by soldiers under his command.
Delic, 59, one of the most senior Bosnian Muslim leaders to appear at the tribunal, failed to prevent or punish cruel treatment by mujahideen fighters in the village of Livade and Kamenica Camp in central Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995, the tribunal said.
During one incident at Kamenica Camp, captured Bosnian Serb Army soldiers were forced to kiss the severed head of a fellow soldier.
Prosecutors argued that Delic had known of the foreign fighters’ inclination to violence and had failed to prevent or punish their atrocities, and had asked for a total sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment.
Moloto himself had dissented in the ruling, saying there was not enough evidence that Delic could have exercised sufficient control over the fighters.
By majority decision, the three-judge panel acquitted Delic of three other counts in his indictment, of murder and cruel treatment.
Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat officials, as well as war victims groups, said the sentence was too lenient and accused the Hague court of political bias.
Delic is one of a handful of Bosnian Muslims to stand trial in The Hague for war crimes committed during the Bosnian war. Most accused are Serbs but the court has indicted senior figures from all three Bosnian ethnic groups.
Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said the sentence showed that “justice for the Serb victims of the war is really unreachable”.
“The verdict has erased the minimum of our confidence in the impartiality of the Hague tribunal, which has practically lost its legitimacy among the Serb people,” Dodik told reporters in the Bosnian Serb de facto capital of Banja Luka.
With time already served, Delic will only have to serve just under two years of his sentence, the tribunal said.
The trial began in July 2007, and prosecutors had called 52 witnesses to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which was set up by the U.N. Security Council in 1993 to try those most responsible for the wars which tore apart the former Yugoslavia.
Additional reporting by Olja Stanic in Banja Luka and Tina Jelin in Mostar; Editing by Keith Weir