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Two Serbs convicted of war crimes

THE HAGUE — The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal convicted two senior Bosnian Serbs on Wednesday of key roles in a campaign of murder, torture, and persecution against Muslims and Croats during the 1992-95 Bosnian war and sentenced each to 22 years in prison.

Mico Stanisic was the interior minister in the breakaway Bosnian Serb republic set up during his country’s bitter war, while Stojan Zupljanin was a senior security official in charge of police.

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Prosecutors had sought life sentences for both men after charging them with being part of a criminal conspiracy led by Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic and his military chief, General Ratko Mladic, to force Muslims and Croats out of what they considered to be Serb territory in Bosnia.

Presiding Judge Burton Hall said both men were in a position to prevent or punish crimes and neither did as Serb police and paramilitaries went on a rampage in early 1992, killing and mistreating non-Serbs as they tried to carve out a ‘‘Greater Serbia’’ during the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

Zupljanin stood and crossed himself as Hall said he was guilty of persecution, extermination, murder, and torture. Stanisic stood stoically as he was convicted of persecution, murder, and torture but acquitted of extermination.

Zupljanin was convicted of extermination in part because he set up a notorious police unit that the court ruled ‘‘committed heinous crimes against Muslims and Croats, including rape, torture, and murder.’’

The court’s detailed judgment, running more than 600 pages, provided a grim reminder of the horrors of war that erupted in Bosnia. Hall said one group of Serb paramilitaries, known as Yellow Wasps, tortured prisoners near Zvornik in April 1992, including forcing prisoners to eat body parts cut off from others, Hall said, adding ‘‘if a prisoner did not do so, he was killed.’’

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