A court in Bosnia Herzegovina convicted seven former soldiers for war crimes over the kidnapping and execution of 20 civilians during the Bosnian war.
The former soldiers’ commander was acquitted.
The 20 civilians killed in the incident were mostly Muslim men, and were tortured and killed after being removed from a train in February 1993.
The court found the seven former soldiers of a Republika Srpska army infantry brigade guilty, and sentenced each to 13 years in prison for committing war crimes.
The incident began at the Strpci train station near the Bosnian border on 27 February 1993. Armed Serbs stopped a train there, and removed 20 passengers. They brought the men, made up mostly of Muslims, to Visegrad in eastern Bosnia.
There, the soldiers tortured and killed all 20 civilians before dumping their bodies in the Drina River.
All 20 victims were from the Muslim-dominated Sandzak area in western Serbia, near the border with Bosnia.
The remains of only four of the victims have so far been found, with the search for the remains of the remaining victims continuing.
Obrad Poluga, Novak Poluga, Radojica Ristic, Petko Indic, Miodrag Mitasinovic, Dragan Sekovic, and Oliver Krsmanovic were all found guilty of the crime.
The former commander of the infantry brigade the former soldiers belonged to, Luka Dragicevic, was acquitted.
Judge Vesna Jesenkovic said that the Bosnian Prosecutor General’s Office had failed to prove that Dragicevic issued the order to torture and kill civilians.
“The prosecution proved that Dragicevic received reports or orders but did not prove how he later acted on those orders,” said the judge.
“No witness said that he informed Dragicevic about the event — that is, about the killings of civilians,” she continued.
The president of Women Victims of War, Bakira Hasecic, told reporters that she was shocked at the decision to acquit Dragicevic.
“Everything that happened happened under his command,” she said.
Hasecic also said that the sentence of 13 years in prison was “no punishment at all” for “such brutal murders of Serbian citizens.”
The lawyer who represented Dragicevic, Miodrag Stojanovic, said justice had been served in the case of his client. Even so, he said he had “mixed feelings” about the 13 year sentences handed down to the former soldiers; he said they were “inappropriate” due to it not being confirmed that any of the men carried out the shooting.
More than 130,000 civilians died during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.
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