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The BBC's Justin Webb reports
"One day, we'll get them" - Former UN Commander in Bosnia, Colonel Bob Stewart
 real 28k

Friday, 3 March, 2000, 14:17 GMT
General guilty of Bosnia war crimes
A Bosnian Muslim woman in front of a destroyed mosque in Ahmici
A Bosnian Muslim woman in front of a destroyed mosque in Ahmici
The UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague has found former Bosnian Croat commander Tihomir Blaskic guilty of war crimes.

Blaskic, the highest-ranking military official to be brought before the court so far, was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

The three-judge court, chaired by Claude Jorda of France, convicted him of planning the systematic persecution of Bosnian Muslims and of trying to ethnically cleanse central Bosnia of Muslims in 1993.

Tihomir Blaskic
Blaskic: Found guilty after a 25-month trial
Blaskic, 39, was in charge of the HVO, the Bosnian Croat army that fought a bitter war against Bosnian Government forces.

"The crimes you committed, General Blaskic, are extremely serious," said Judge Jorda.

"The acts of war carried out with disregard for international humanitarian law and in hatred of other people, the villages reduced to rubble, the houses and stables set on fire and destroyed, the people forced to abandon their homes, the lost and broken lives are unnacceptable."

It's a critical day for the tribunal

Spokesman for UN chief war crimes prosecutor
Blaskic's lawyer said he was "surprised and disappointed" and added that an appeal would be lodged.

But the Bosnian government welcomed the verdict, and insisted that more alleged war criminals be brought to justice, including former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military chief Ratko Mladic.

Ahmici slaughter

During that time the Croats were responsible for appalling mistreatment of Bosnian Muslim civilians, including the infamous attack on the village of Ahmici, where more than 100 men, women and children were slaughtered.

The acts of war carried out with disregard for international humanitarian law ... are unacceptable

Judge Claude Jorda
The BBC's Europe correspondent Justin Webb says the verdict was of huge importance because after years of dealing with relatively junior people, the court at last had the opportunity to pass judgement on a general.

"It's a critical day for the tribunal," said Paul Risley, spokesman for UN chief war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte.

"This sentence promises to be the beginning of a phase at the tribunal where the sentences are taken very seriously."

Two-year trial

In all, Blaskic was found guilty on all but one of 20 counts of crimes against humanity, war crimes and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which seek to protect civilians caught in warfare.

His trial lasted more than two years. Witnesses included the former UK Liberal Democrat leader, Paddy Ashdown, and the former BBC war reporter, Martin Bell.

Throughout proceedings, the general did not deny that killings took place but he vehemently insisted that he did not order them or have the power to stop them.

Friday's verdict preceeds the start of another high-profile trial - of Serb General Radislav Krstic, who is accused of responsibility for 1995 massacres in the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica.

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14 Jan 00 |  Europe
Flashback: The Ahmici massacre
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