Serb acquitted of Srebrenica charges


A Bosnian appeals court acquitted a Serb wartime commander of Srebrenica genocide charges today, quashing an earlier 40-year prison term on grounds of insufficient evidence.

Bosnia's war crimes court convicted Milos Stupar and six other Bosnian Serbs in 2008 in connection with the killing of several hundred Srebrenica Muslim detainees in 1995 and were sentenced to terms ranging between 38 and 42 years in prison.

But Stupar appealed against the conviction, prompting the Sarajevo court's appeals chamber to annul the verdict and start a new trial two months ago.

Evidence in the retrial showed Stupar took command of the Bosnian Serb unit linked to the massacre only on July 14th, 1995, replacing an injured commander, and so could not have prevented the killings the day before, presiding judge Azra Miletic said.

"The evidence does not indicate that Milos Stupar was a commander who had effective control over those who allegedly executed the crime," Mr Miletic said.

"He cannot be considered responsible for failing to punish those who had not been under his effective control."

Stupar showed little expression as the judge read out the acquittal but later embraced his lawyer, a woman and a guard.

Bosnian Serb forces, led by fugitive general Ratko Mladic, captured the United Nations-protected enclave of Srebrenica on July 11, 1995. They separated off women and elderly and bussed them to territory held by the Bosnian Muslim-dominated army.

Over the following week, they hunted down and killed around 8,000 of 15,000 men and boys who tried to escape through woods in what is seen as Europe's worst atrocity since World War Two.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague has sentenced seven Bosnian Serbs and is trying nine more for the Srebrenica massacre.

Bosnia's war crimes court, set up in 2005 to relieve the burden on the Hague-based tribunal, has put dozens of Bosnian Serbs on trial over Srebrenica. Twelve have been jailed, seven acquitted and seven are still being tried.