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UN: Former Bosnian Serb President Pleads Guilty

The Hague, 16 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic today became the highest-ranking official from the former Yugoslavia to admit to atrocities at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The UN tribunal is hearing evidence today to determine a sentence for Plavsic. Plavsic, 72, is the first woman to appear before the tribunal.

In court documents released today, Plavsic acknowledged she covered up crimes, ignored widespread allegations of criminal acts, and "publicly rationalized and justified the ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs" during the 1990s conflict in Bosnia.

Chief UN war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte said that Plavsic has made no attempt to evade responsibility for her actions. "Today's hearing is of unusual importance in bringing to light what occurred during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is the first time in the history of this tribunal that a senior figure in the former Yugoslavia indicted in a top leadership role has admitted responsibility for horrific crimes committed during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina."

But Plavsic said she did not participate with former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in planning the ethnic cleansing. She also said she played a lesser role than Radovan Karadzic, Plavsic's predecessor as president and one of the tribunal's most wanted men.

Among witnesses expected to testify in the hearing are former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former UN Balkans envoy Carl Bildt.