PARIS — A former senior commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, Zdravko Tolimir, was convicted of genocide Wednesday and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the killings of thousands of prisoners near the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995.
Judges at the UN tribunal in The Hague, voting 2-1, said Tolimir had been found guilty because as the army’s head of intelligence he not only knew of the plans to commit ‘‘horrific mass murder’’ of Bosnian Muslim prisoners but also played a pivotal role in the crime. He ‘‘deliberately participated’’ in the destruction of the Muslim communities under UN protection in the towns of Srebrenica and Zepa, the judges said.
The presiding judge, Christoph Fluegge of Germany, stressed several times that Tolimir, 64, had failed in his duty to protect the prisoners of war before they were led away to the killing sites, inside buildings and on open fields. The crimes that followed were ‘‘massive in scale, severe in intensity, and devastating in their effect,’’ he said.
Tolimir was the right-hand man of the overall Bosnian Serb Army commander, General Ratko Mladic.
When Fluegge said, ‘‘Mr. Tolimir, you are hereby sentenced to life imprisonment,’’ the defendant stood and listened, eyes cast down, then made the sign of the cross several times.