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Serbian Court Jails 13 For 1991 War Massacre

BELGRADE (Reuters) -- Serbia's war crimes court has jailed 13 former Serbian paramilitaries for the 1991 massacre of 200 Croats, among the atrocities of the wars that broke up Yugoslavia.

Local commander Miroljub Vujovic and six other defendants were sentenced at a retrial to 20 years each in jail. Six others were imprisoned for between five and 15 years.

The case was a test of the Serbian legal system's ability to prosecute suspects for war crimes committed during the 13-year tenure of former President Slobodan Milosevic.

The Ovcara massacre took place when the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav People's Army overran the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar in November 1991 after a siege lasting months.

The verdict said that Serbian paramilitaries, led by Vujovic, took Croatian prisoners of war in small groups to the Ovcara pig farm, where they were mown down with machine guns.

"Those still moving were finished off with pistols," the verdict said.

The court acquitted five defendants, as it could not find enough evidence they took part in the massacre. Prosecutors announced they would appeal against the acquittals.

Lawyers of those sentenced said they would lodge an appeal to Serbia's Supreme Court.

Bruno Vekaric, a spokesman for the war crimes prosecutor, said he was satisfied with the sentences, but relatives of the victims said they were too short.

"I am dismayed," said Veronika Dusko, one of the relatives. "Such a crime, and the sentences are so low. That's injustice, that's insane."

In 1991, Croatia declared independence from the former communist Yugoslavia, provoking an armed rebellion by its ethnic Serbs who enjoyed backing from the Serbian-dominated federal military and Milosevic's authorities in Belgrade.

The war in Croatia ended in 1995, after its troops overrun Serbian-held territories there.

The initial trial of the suspects for the Ovcara massacre was held in 2005, but the Supreme Court overturned the verdicts in 2007 on the basis of procedural irregularities and ordered a retrial.