Serbia jails three for killing Muslims, prosecutor to appeal

Thu Jun 12, 2008 12:25pm EDT

BELGRADE, June 12 (Reuters) - A Serbian court sentenced former paramilitaries convicted of the 1992 killings of Muslim civilians in eastern Bosnia to between three to 15 years in jail on Thursday, sentences the prosecutor said were too light.

Dragan Slavkovic, Ivan Korac and Sinisa Filipovic, all members of paramilitary group "Yellow Wasps", were found guilty of killing at least 25 Muslim civilians in the Zvornik area and were sentenced to 15, 13 and 3 years in prison respectively.

It was the first case transferred to Serbia by the U.N war crimes tribunal in The Hague and seen as a chance to prove a Serbian court could conduct a fair trial of Serb war crime suspects.

Serb war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said he was not happy with the verdicts and would ask for the maximum sentence of 20 years.

"The verdicts are not sufficient, they are too mild. We are going to appeal," he told reporters.

According to records, the three beat and tortured men for weeks. They carved crosses on their foreheads, cut off their ears and testicles and forced them to eat them and forced fathers and sons to commit sexual acts on each other.

It was the first of a number of cases relating to the killing of a total of 900 Muslim civilians at the beginning of the war in Zvornik area. Serbia set up its special war crimes court in 2003.

Some 13 years after the war in Bosnia ended, many Serbs see the paramilitaries as heroes who defended the nation. Failure to prosecute and extradite war crimes suspects has been the main obstacle on Serbia's way to closer ties with the European Union.

The verdicts came a day after the arrest of Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitive Stojan Zupljanin, a move which helped the dinar currency rise one percent. Serbia served him with his extradition papers on Thursday.

The three remaining top war crimes fugitives, including Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and his army commander Ratko Mladic, are believed to be within the reach of Serbian authorities. (Reporting by Ivana Sekularac, editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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