Montenegro sentences soldiers for Dubrovnik torture

PODGORICA Sat May 15, 2010 6:51am EDT

PODGORICA (Reuters) - A Montenegrin court sentenced six ex-soldiers of the former Yugoslav army (JNA) to prison on Saturday for torturing Croatian prisoners of war and civilians during a 1991 attack of the Adriatic city of Dubrovnik.

The verdict is the first issued in Montenegro since it declared independence in 2006 for crimes committed during the 1990s Balkan wars, as the former Yugoslavia was torn apart by Serbs, Croats and Muslims fighting for land.

"They are guilty because they had ordered and executed torture and inhuman treatment and inflicted great suffering onto war prisoners and civilians brought from the Dubrovnik area," said judge Milenka Zizic.

The High Court sentenced the six lower-ranking soldiers to prison terms ranging from 18 months to four years, a verdict their defense lawyers and some observers described as 'political' as no senior official has yet been tried for the Dubrovnik crimes.

Croatia declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and the JNA forces attacked towns across the country, including the 'Adriatic Pearl' and UNESCO World Heritage site Dubrovnik, which had been besieged for months and shelled by heavy artillery.

Around 300 civilians and prisoners of war from Dubrovnik had been taken to the detention camp in Montenegro's coastal village of Morinj, where they were kept for months and tortured.

The United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague sentenced JNA Generals Pavle Strugar and Miodrag Jokic to prison terms over the shelling of Dubrovnik. Strugar was released in 2008.

(Reporting by Petar Komnenic, writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Reed Stevenson)

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