SARAJEVO (Reuters) - A Bosnian Muslim woman was jailed on Monday for the wartime murders of Croat civilians and prisoners of war, in the country’s first conviction of a woman for crimes committed during the 1992-95 conflict.
Rasema Handanovic, 39, a single mother and naturalized U.S. citizen, had pleaded guilty to the killings of six Bosnian Croats during an attack on the southern village of Trusina in April 1993.
The judge, Jasmina Kosovic, said Handanovic had been the victim of a wartime rape before committing the Trusina crimes and had lost several family members in the conflict.
Handanovic was sentenced to five and a half years in prison, after she struck a plea bargain and agreed to testify against six other members of the “Zulfikar” special unit of the Bosnian army which carried out the attack.
“The court has taken into account that Handanovic admitted the crimes, was willing to provide all information and evidence related to the attack and the fact that she expressed remorse to the relatives of the victims,” Kosovic told the court.
A total of 18 Croat civilians and four prisoners of war were killed in the attack, in which Handanovic was accused of taking part in a firing squad-style execution.
Handanovic was extradited from the United States to Bosnia. She had been living in a suburb of Portland, Oregon.
The only other woman to have been convicted of war crimes during the Bosnian war was Biljana Plavsic, the former Bosnian Serb president who was found guilty of persecution and crimes against humanity by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Plavsic was sentenced in 2003 to 11 years in jail and released after serving two-thirds of her term.
Reporting By Maja Zuvela; editing by Andrew Roche