Bosnian-Serb guilty of war crimes

Dragan Zelenovic sentenced to 15 years in prison for rape and torture charges.

    Zelenovic pleaded guilty to seven counts of rape and torture as part of a plea bargain [Reuters]

    Zelenovic was indicted in 1996 for crimes committed against non-Serbs in his native Foca region, southeast of Sarajevo.

    Sexual assaults

    "The victims at the detention centres in Foca suffered the unspeakable pain, indignity, and humiliation of being repeatedly violated, without knowing whether they would survive the ordeal," Judge Alphons Orie said.

       

    "The scars left by the sexual assaults were deep and will perhaps never heal. This, perhaps more than anything, speaks about the gravity of the crimes in this case."

        

    Zelenovic's defence had recommended a sentence of 7 to 10 years, while prosecutors pushed for 10 to 15.

        

    Last year, he pleaded "not guilty" to 14 counts of rape and torture, but under the terms of a plea bargain between his defence team and prosecutors he admitted to seven charges in January while the others were dropped.

        

    After Serb forces took control of Foca, whose population at the time was 52 per cent Muslim and 45 per cent Serb, they unlawfully detained thousands of Muslims and Croats.

       

    Humiliating treatment

     

    The non-Serb women were separated from the men and many were later interrogated and subjected to humiliating treatment, brutal beatings and sexual assaults.

       

    On one occasion Zelenovic took four Muslim women who were detained in a school to a separate classroom and assigned each one to a soldier who raped them.

       

    He also aided and abetted in the gang rape of one woman by at least 10 soldiers, which was so violent that she lost consciousness.

       

    "The victims in this case were in a particularly vulnerable situation ... they were unarmed and defenceless and detained under brutal conditions for long periods of time," Orie said.

       

    He added that the court had considered several mitigating factors, such as Zelenovic's remorse and his guilty plea, which had spared the victims the ordeal of giving evidence.

       

    Zelenovic arrived in the Netherlands to face trial in June 2006. He was arrested 10 months earlier in western Siberia, where Russian media said he had been working on construction sites under an assumed name.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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