Former Serbian president Milutinovic acquitted of war crimes

Friday, February 27, 2009

Milan Milutinović, the former president of Serbia, has been cleared of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity by a United Nations war crimes tribunal in Kosovo.

Five other top Serbian officials, however, were found guilty of their charges and given sentences ranging from 15 to 22 years in prison.

Milutinović, aged 66, was the president of Serbia from December 1997 to December 2002, but was widely seen as a figurehead president during the Kosovo conflict in the 1990s. The court concluded that he did not have any direct control over the army, and was released from custody.

"The trial chamber finds you not guilty of counts one to five of the indictment," said Iain Bonomy, the judge at the trial. "In practice, it was Milošević, sometimes termed the 'Supreme Commander', who exercised actual command authority over the [Serb army] during the NATO campaign."

Milutinović and the five other men went on trial in July of 2006 on charges of murdering hundreds and forcibly deporting 800,000 civilians by Serbian forces in 1999 in Kosovo.

Should Milutinović have been acquitted?

Of the five sentenced to prison, former Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Šainović, Yugoslav Army General Nebojša Pavković, and Serbian Police General Sreten Lukić were given sentences of 22 years. Yugoslav Army General Vladimir Lazarević and Chief of the General Staff Dragoljub Ojdanić were each sentenced to 15 years behind bars.

All six men had pleaded not guilty to their charges.