THE HAGUE (AFP) — The UN's Yugoslav war crimes court Monday handed a three-year jail term to an ex-commander of Bosnia's army for cruel treatment by his troops in the country's war, but acquitted him of murder.
"The trial chamber by a majority finds you, Rasim Delic, guilty ... of cruel treatment" of 12 Serbian soldiers during Bosnia's 1992-1995 conflict, judge Bakone Moloto told the accused in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
"The trial chamber ... hereby sentences you to a single sentence of three years' imprisonment."
Delic is one of comparatively few Muslims to be indicted by the tribunal, often accused of bias by Serbia, and one of the most senior in the Bosnian military hierarchy to be charged.
The 488 days he has already spent behind bars awaiting trial will be subtracted from his sentence.
The 59-year-old ex-general had been accused over the murders of at least 88 people and the mistreatment of several others by his troops between June 1993 and September 1995. Some of the victims were civilians and others prisoners of war.
The crimes were allegedly committed by Muslim extremist fighters called the Mujahedin or "holy warriors" who formed a unit (the El Mujahed Detachment or EMD) of the Bosnian army, and were comprised in part of foreign volunteers.
Delic was tried on the basis of "superior criminal responsibility" for failing to prevent or punish the men's actions.
In handing down judgement, Moloto noted the "appallingly brutal nature" of the mistreatment of 12 Serbian soldiers at the hands of EMD forces at the Kamenica detention camp, which had lasted more than a month.
But the court dismissed all the other charges, saying there was insufficient evidence to show a subordinate relationship between Delic and the EMD or that he had known crimes were about to be committed.
In one incident in June 1993, Muslim fighters alleged to have been under Delic's command opened indiscriminate fire on a group of captured civilians and soldiers, executing survivors by shooting them in the head. Twenty-four people were killed.
It had also been alleged that Bosnian Muslim troops tortured captured Serb soldiers at the Kamenica detention camp and killed 52 of them in September 1995.
Prosecutors, who had asked for a 15-year jail term for Delic, claimed he was informed of the crimes but failed to punish the perpetrators, instead awarding some among them the army's highest honours.
Delic had maintained his innocence throughout.
The former general surrendered to the ICTY in February 2005. He was granted release from the tribunal's custody in May that year, returning in June last year -- a month before the start of the trial.
The court has scrapped a rape charge against Delic for the alleged sexual assault of three women by Bosnian Muslim soldiers in September 1995.
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