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Five Bosnian Serbs convicted of murdering civilians in 1992

Five Bosnian Serbs were sentenced on Friday to between 5 and 20 years in prison for the murders of dozens of Bosnian Muslim civilians, including children and women, at the start of the Bosnian intercommunal war in the 1990s. The Bosnian State Court sentenced Ilija Zoric to the maximum twenty years behind bars, after he was found guilty of participating in the massacre of 29 women and children who had taken refuge in a house in the village of Zecovi near the northwestern town of Prijedor. Six out of eleven former military and police officers that were on trial since 2015 were acquitted, and none of them was present when the verdict was read out at first instance, according to an AFP journalist. The massacre in the village of Zecovi was committed on July 25 1992, on the third day of a “clean-up” operation in the village, in which at least 150 inhabitants were murdered, according to the prosecutor’s office. The remains of thirty-two civilians killed were never found, judge Saban Maksumic said. After the women and children had “orderly” left the house, “Ilija Zoric and several other people mowed them down with a hail of bullets”, the judge explained. “Only one 15-year-old child, who had hidden in a nearby house, survived”, he added. This survivor, Zijad Bacic, now 46, testified in the trial. His 10-year-old sister, his two brothers aged 12 and 16, and his mother were killed. “To be honest, I’m partly happy with this verdict. I saw this criminal Ilija Zoric and I’m pleased that the court has accepted my testimony”, Bacic told reporters after the verdict was read. The commander of a company of Serbian forces in this area, Dusan Milunic, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He was found guilty of having organised “the operation to clean up the village”, together with the head of a reserve police unit, Radomir Stojnic, who died in 2022. Three other members of the units involved in the operation were sentenced to 5, 8 and 14 years in prison for the murders of four other civilians. Fikret Bacic, whose 6-year-old daughter, 12-year-old son and 32-year-old wife were killed in the shooting, is “bitter” as he is still searching for their remains. “This verdict means nothing to me. I expected the prosecutor’s office and the court to find out about the mass graves”, he said. The Bosnian war (1992-1995) claimed almost 100,000 lives. The remains of 7,600 victims are still being sought.

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