Bosnian Serb jailed for 20 years for burning Bosniaks to death

Soldier extradited from France convicted of murdering 26 civilians including baby, locked inside Visegrad house in 1992.

    A Bosniak man walks among coffins during a funeral in Visegrad, site of some of the worst atrocities committed by Serb forces during the war in Bosnia [File: Amel Emric/AP]
    A Bosniak man walks among coffins during a funeral in Visegrad, site of some of the worst atrocities committed by Serb forces during the war in Bosnia [File: Amel Emric/AP]

    A court in Sarajevo has sentenced a former Bosnian Serb soldier extradited by France last year to 20 years in prison for war crimes, the maximum penalty.

    Radomir Susnjar, 64, was convicted of taking part in the murder of at least 26 Bosniaks, including a two-day-old baby, who were burned to death inside a house in Visegrad in eastern Bosnia on June 14, 1992.

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    The mass killing was among the worst massacres in the 1992-1995 war.

    Susnjar "committed the crime against the civilian population and this court sentences him to 20 years in prison", judge Enida Hadziomerovic said on Wednesday.

    Bosniak civilians were locked in the house that was then "burned down by an explosive device", she said.

    Serb paramilitaries also "fired automatic rifles in the direction of the house to prevent people from fleeing", added the judge, who read the names of victims. 

    Susnjar was also found guilty of robbery and illegal detention of civilians, the court in Bosnia's capital said. A total of 57 civilians were locked in the house, and several survivors testified during the trial.

    About 15 people, including relatives of victims, applauded the verdict inside the courtroom.

    Susnjar had lived in France for many years before being tracked down and arrested on a Bosnian warrant.

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    He was first arrested in France in 2014 before being released on supervision. He was then arrested again and extradited to Bosnia in June 2018.

    In 2012, two other former Bosnian Serb fighters were imprisoned for the same massacre, in which many women, children and elderly were among the victims.

    Cousins Milan and Sredoje Lukic were sentenced to life and 27 years respectively by the former The Hague-based international tribunal, the ICTY, which tried crimes from the wars that unravelled former Yugoslavia.

    The ICTY closed its doors late in 2017, having tried 161 suspects. Lower-ranking cases have been handled by the Bosnian war crimes court.

    Bosnian Serb forces, helped by the now-defunct Serb-dominated Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Serbian paramilitaries, committed atrocities against Bosniaks in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995 as part of their bid to create exclusively Serb territories.

    Some 100,000 people died in the war, a large majority of them Bosniaks.

    Today, the country is still governed by the Dayton Agreement struck in 1995 that carved Bosnia two entities - Republika Srpska run by Serbs and the Federation entity controlled by Bosniaks and Croats.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies