The case is the first time a state has been put on trial for genocide.
Pera Petrasevic, the only defendant to have confessed, was given 13 years, while Aleksandar Medic was jailed for five years.
A fifth defendant, Aleksandar Vukov, was cleared due to a lack of evidence.
“[Slobodan] Medic ordered the three defendants and two others to execute the prisoners, take them away from the site and make it seem as if they had been killed in conflict,” the judge said.
|“These people will leave jail one day, but my child will never come out of the ground”
The five men were charged after the release of a video showing six Muslim men and boys being shot dead in the village of Trnovo in July 1995.
In the video, the Scorpions were seen taunting four of the Muslims before they were forced to lie face-down in a roadside ditch and shot in the back.
The remains of five of the victims were exhumed in April 1999.
The prosecution, which had asked for the maximum 40-year sentence for the defendants, said it would appeal against the sentences. The defence lawyers said they would also appeal.
“The verdict will be at least a partial satisfaction for the families of the victims,” Vladimir Vukcevic, Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor, told reporters outside the court.
But relatives of the victims, who arrived from Bosnia in two minibuses and were brought into the court under heavy police escort, said all the defendants deserved the maximum sentence.
|Relatives of the victims were brought to the
court under heavy security [AFP]
“Whatever the ruling, my child is not here,” Nura Alispahic, the mother of a 16-year-old victim, said. “These people will leave jail one day, but my child will never come out of the ground.”
Hana Fezlic, a Bosnian Muslim who lost children during the Srebrenica massacre, said “Serbia should be ashamed” of its legal system.
Natasa Kandic, a human rights activist whose organisation obtained the video and handed it over to the UN court, also criticised the verdict.
“The verdict neither brings justice to the defendants for what they have done, nor for the victims killed only because they were Bosnian [Muslims] from Srebrenica.”
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The massacre in the UN-protected Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica is considered the worst atrocity in Europe since the second world war.
“Some very small fry have been dealt with … the massacre was of 8,000 people and these are men that were convicted of killing six people. What the court didn’t really look at was who was ultimately in control of these people,” Tim Judah, an author of several books on the former Yugoslavia, told Al Jazeera
Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader, and Ratko Mladic, his military commander, have both been charged with genocide by the UN tribunal in The Hague for orchestrating the Srebrenica massacre but remain at large.