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Bosnia: War Crimes Tribunal Sentences Plavsic To Prison

The Hague, 27 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The UN war crimes tribunal has sentenced former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic to 11 years in prison for atrocities committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the early 1990s. Plavsic pleaded guilty last year to one count of crimes against humanity during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. Prosecutors had demanded a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

Judge Richard May said Plavsic played a role in the ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs in Bosnia during the 1992-95 conflict but not as great a role as some others did. He also noted that she took "unprecedented steps" to mitigate the circumstances affecting her case, including promoting peace in the region, turning herself in to the tribunal, and pleading guilty to one charge against her. He noted that the tribunal also took into account the fact that she is 72 years old.

Plavsic's attorney has argued that she has shown remorse and should be sentenced to a maximum of eight years in prison. Critics charge that she has not apologized for her actions during the war and that she has been less than enthusiastic about cooperating with the tribunal on other cases. She is, however, the only high-ranking Serbian indictee to have pleaded guilty to at least one of the charges against her.

Plavsic is the highest-ranking political leader involved in the Balkans war in the 1990s to be sentenced by the UN court since it was set up in 1993 to prosecute and try suspected criminals from the former Yugoslavia.

May said: "The Bosnian Serb leadership, including Mrs. Plavsic, ignored the allegations of crimes committed by their forces. Mrs. Plavsic disregarded reports of widespread ethnic cleansing and publically rationalized and justified it."

He added: "The trial chamber accepts that this is a crime of the utmost gravity, involving as it does a campaign of ethnic separation, which resulted in the deaths of thousands and the expulsion of thousands more in circumstances of great brutality." And commented that: "The trial chamber is satisfied that Mrs. Plavsic was instrumental in ensuring that the Dayton Agreement was accepted and implemented in Republika Srpska. As such, she made a considerable contribution to peace in the region."