Bosnian Serb, Croat politicians deplore Muslim army chief’s sentence

BBC Monitoring Europe (Political) – September 15, 2008, Monday

Bosnian Serb and Croat politicians have voiced dismay at the three-year prison sentence passed by the Hague tribunal on the wartime commander of the Bosnian Muslim army, Gen Rasim Delic, on 15 September.

Delic is the former Commander of the Main Staff of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina, sentenced for war crimes committed by troops under his command in central Bosnia between June 1993 and September 1995, particularly by members of the El Mudzahid unit comprised of foreign Islamic fighters.

Bosnian Serb Premier Milorad Dodik told the Serb news agency SRNA that Delic’s sentence showed that “justice is indeed out of reach for the Serb victims of the civil war in Bosnia-Hercegovina”.

He said the sentence had destroyed any notion of trust the Serbs could have had left in the Hague tribunal.

“We do not wish to take on the role of arbiters, or dispute the independence of the Hague tribunal in reaching decisions, but how is it possible that everyone from the [Bosnian] Serb Republic is tried in accordance with his command responsibility, while the commander of the Bosnia-Hercegovina Army does not have command responsibility?” Dodik wonders.

He added that instead of contributing to reconciliation in Bosnia with just rulings, the Hague tribunal was “sowing divisions” among the country’s nations.

“Photographs of severed Serb heads have been seen by the whole world. We are calling on that same world to ask the judges of the Hague tribunal if the three years they have given Rasim Delic are a just sentence for the horrific scenes of Mujahid crimes committed in the operational zone of the Bosnia-Hercegovina Army under Delic’s command?” Dodik told the agency.

Spokesman for the main Bosnian Croat party – HDZ BiH – Miso Relota told SRNA that his party was “unpleasantly surprised” by the “shamefully short sentence” passed by the Hague tribunal.

“The HDZ BiH is disappointed by the fact that crimes against Croats in Bosnia-Hercegovina do not carry the same weight with the Hague tribunal,” he said, adding that the sentence was “totally biased and sends an obvious political message”.

The president of the Association of Families of Missing Persons and Prisoners of Central Bosnia, Favijen Barac, told the main state radio in Sarajevo that Delic’s sentence was “a total disappointment”.

His sentiments are echoed by the Organization of Dead and Missing Civilians of the Serb Republic, whose president, Nedeljko Mitrovic, said that “Delic’s sentence does nothing for reconciliation in Bosnia-Hercegovina”. “Moreover, I believe that the Hague tribunal does not want the peoples in this country to make up and live side by side. This is a blow to civilized life in Bosnia-Hercegovina,” Mitrovic told the radio.

On the other hand, president of the Society for Threatened Peoples Fadila Memisevic, is disappointed because she believes that Delic should have been acquitted altogether.

“Based on all the evidence, he really did not have any control over or responsibility for the Mujahid units, and this makes me sad – he was heading the Bosnia-Hercegovina Army, which was defending Bosnia-Hercegovina,” Memisevic told the radio and added: “With respect for the fact that all crimes must be punished, I absolutely believe that Rasim Delic should have been freed”.

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