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Ex-President acquitted for Kosovo war crimes

Article published on the 2009-02-27 Latest update 2009-02-27 13:36 TU

Former Serbian President Milan Multinovic(Photo: Reuters)

Former Serbian President Milan Multinovic
(Photo: Reuters)

The United Nations war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia acquitted Milan Milutinovic, who was President of Serbia during the 1998-99 Kosovo war, of war crimes and crimes against humanity. But five other officials in his government were convicted in the special tribunal’s first ever ruling on Serb actions in Kosovo.

Milutinovic, 66, was accused of five counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the deportation of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, as well as murder and persecution.

He was President of Serbia from 1997 to 2002, but the court found that he exercised no direct control over the army.

“In practice, it was [former Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic, sometimes termed the ‘Supreme Commander’ who exercised actual command authority,” said Judge Iain Bonomy.

The five other officials were all close allies of Milosevic, including former Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, and were sentenced to between 15 and 22 years in jail.

Bonomy ruled that the killings and forced displacements, which came to be collectively known as “ethnic cleansing”, sought to “modify the ethnic balance in Kosovo to ensure continued control by the Serbian authorities”.

Most of the crimes were committed between March and June 1999, during the Nato bombing campaign which helped end the conflict by forcing Serb and Yugoslav forces to withdraw from Kosovo.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia previously failed to convict Milosevic in its first case, becaause the Serbian leader died before a ruling could be handed down.