LIFE SENTENCE FOR A SERB MONSTER
THE International Criminal Tribunal at the Hague on Tuesday upheld Bosnian Serb paramilitary leader Milan Lukic's life sentence for murdering Bosniak civilians in Visegrad (municipality adjoining Srebrenica - see "Srebrenica Region" of Central Podrinje on Map) during Serbian ethnic cleansing of Bosnia between 1992-95. The court ordered his cousin Sredoje Lukic and co-accused to remain in jail.
Among other grave crimes of organizing mass rapes of Bosniak women and girls, for which the Office of the Prosecutor failed to charge the Accused, the ICTY judges said Lukic helped burn alive at least 119 Bosniaks who were locked up by paramilitary fighters in two different houses that were set on fire on different days in June 1992 (three years before the Srebrenica genocide) around the town of Visegrad in eastern Bosnia.
The court had described murder of Bosniak civilians as "the worst acts of inhumanity" and "callous and vicious". Judges in the initial trial had said the two burnings "exemplify the worst acts of inhumanity that a person may inflict upon others".
AFP reported that "a defiant Lukic smiled at victims and their relatives in the public gallery and made the sign of the cross shortly after hearing his appeal had been turned down by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia's (ICTY) appeals chamber."
Although the prosecution had asked the court to increase Sredoje Lukic's sentence, the court reduced his sentence by three years, sentencing him to 27 years in jail.
"Are you Chetnik?" one of the women representing victims in the public gallery shouted at Milan Lukic after the verdict, referring to the name Serbian ultra-nationalist paramilitaries gave themselves during Bosnia's bloody 1992-95 war. "I hope your children turn in their graves," shouted the woman who refused to give her name, reported AFP.
The appeals chamber "affirms Milan Lukic's sentence of life imprisonment (and) reduces Sredoje Lukic's sentence of 30 years imprisonment to a sentence of 27 years," judge Mehmet Guney told the Hague-based court.
"For me and all my folks from Visegrad, for all the victims, our families, this is a rebirth", Bakira Hasecic, who says she was raped in Visegrad, told journalists outside the court, raising her arms in the air as a sign of victory and a large smile across her face. "Finally, the Hague tribunal has shown why it has been set up", reported AFP.
In Sarajevo, Esad Tufekcic, 51, whose wife and two children, aged one and four were burned alive, told AFP he was happy that Milan Lukic's sentence was upheld, but "I'm not glad Sredoje's sentence was reduced," reported AFP. "They killed women and children who died in horrible pain, (who were) burned alive.... No sentence could really serve the justice," Tufekcic told AFP.
Milan Lukic was a founding member of a group known as the White Eagles or Avengers that worked with police and military units between 1992 and 1994 to terrorise Bosniak communities. Lukic was transferred to The Hague in February 2006 from Argentina, where he was arrested in August 2005 after being on the run for more than five years.
Sredoje Lukic, who was hiding in Russia according to prosecutors, turned himself in to Bosnian Serb authorities in September 2005, and was then transferred to The Hague.
Both had been on a list of 10 most-wanted Serb war criminals. Milan Lukic smiled at her before shaking his lawyer's hand and being taken away by guards.