The Bosnian war crimes court on Friday handed down its stiffest sentence yet when it jailed a former elite Bosnian Serb soldier for his part in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre for 43 years.
Stanko Kojic, a member of the Bosnian Serb 10th Sabotage Detachment, was convicted of crimes against humanity for taking part in the notorious July 16 killing of hundreds of people over more than five hours at the Branjevo military farm.
Two other members of the same unit, Slovenian Franc Kos and Bosnian Serb Zoran Goronja, both got 40 years, while a third man, Vlastimir Golijan, received a 19-year prison sentence.
The men were convicted for their part in the killings of some 800 Bosnian Muslims, men and boys, one tenth of the 8,000 massacred in the days after Serb forces overran the U.N.-protected Srebrenica enclave on July 11, 1995.
“The panel of judges has established that the accused committed a crime against humanity,” judge Mira Smajlovic said.
But they were all acquitted on genocide charges as the court ruled it had not been proven that they had the “genocidal intent” required for such a conviction, the judge added.
Smajlovic described how during the bloody killing spree the members of the 10th Sabotage Detachment “took breaks twice, to eat and drink beers amid the bodies”.
She said just two Muslim detainees survived the killings.
During the trial Kos, one of the commanders of the unit, admitted to having taken part in the massacre, describing how the detainees had been brought to the execution site in buses.
“They were heading calmly towards the execution site and lined up,” he told the court.
“We killed them by shooting them in the back,” he added. He estimated that his platoon had executed some 300 people, before being replaced by other soldiers.
The Branjevo farm is located some 70 kilometers (44 miles) north of Srebrenica.
Kos and Kojic also killed victims “who were still giving signs of life” after the initial execution with pistols at close range, the judge said.
The 10th Sabotage Detachment, which also included non-Serb mercenaries, was founded by former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic.
Mladic is currently on trial for genocide at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.
Srebrenica was the worst such atrocity in Europe since World War II and was ruled a genocide by both the ICTY and the U.N.’s top court, the International Court of Justice.
Along with Mladic, Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic is also standing trial before the ICTY, notably for genocide committed at Srebrenica.
The first person to be convicted for the Srebrenica massacre was ex-soldier Drazen Erdemovic, also a member of the elite unit, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in jail in 1998.
In May, the Bosnian court sentenced two former Bosnian Serb policemen -- Dusko Jevic and Mendeljev Djuric -- to 35 and 30 years in jail respectively for “aiding genocide” at Srebrenica.
Kos’s lawyer Dusko Tomic said he would appeal the verdict, arguing that some organizers of the crime were sentenced to less severe sentences.
Bosnian Serb general Radislav Krstic, who oversaw the attack on Srebrenica, was sentenced to 35 years in 2004 by the ICTY for aiding and abetting genocide.