Stakic was found guilty of extermination and persecution in the Prijedor area, infamous for the Omarska concentration camp. Stakic showed no emotion as the sentence was handed down.

Pictures of emaciated Croatian and Bosnian Muslim victims at Omarska shocked the world and made the Bosnian Serbs ethnic cleansing policy impossible to ignore.

“Dr Stakic was one of the principal actors” in a campaign of murder, rape and torture “and intentionally discriminated against non-Serbs,” Judge Wolfgang Schomburg said, AFP reported.

This is the first life sentence handed down by the war crimes tribunal since it was convened some 10 years ago.

Genocide rejected 

Still, the court rejected a charge of genocide leveled at Stakic. Genocide is notoriously difficult to prove as the prosecution must prove with documentary evidence that the accused intended to destroy all or part of a national, religious, racial or ethnic group.

"Despite the comprehensive patern of attrocities against non-Serbs, the trial chamber has not found this case to be a case of genocide"                           -- Judge Schomburg

In 1992, the “Crisis Committee of the Serbian District of Prijedor” was set-up to takeover Prijedor. Stakic was mayor of the town.

The group’s aim was to arm the local Serb population, to frighten them into believing they were in mortal danger from non-Serb residents and expropriate property.

Stakic presided over the establishment of two concentration camps where thousands of detainees were held.

Omarska concentration camp

His indictment listed specific cases of murder and cruelty, including the murder of 120 people taken from the Omarska and Keraterm camps in mid-1992.

Meanwhile, the trial of the court's number one indictee, former Serb President Slobadan Milosevic, continues.

Still the Stakic case could have implications on any verdict handed down to Milosevic as prosecutors are citing the Prijedor camps and massacres as proof of Milosevic’s genocidal intentions.

The Bosnian war lasted from 1992 until 1995, and cost as many as 250,000 lives.