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Two former allies of ex-Serbian President Milosevic convicted of war crimes by UN court

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By AP
Jovica Stanisic, centre, and his subordinate Franko "Frenki" Simatovic, right, appear in court at the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.
Jovica Stanisic, centre, and his subordinate Franko "Frenki" Simatovic, right, appear in court at the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.   -   Copyright  Piroschka van de Wouw/Pool via AP

Two former allies of the late Serbian President Slobodan Milošević have been convicted of war crimes at a United Nations Court.

Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic were found guilty on Wednesday of aiding and abetting crimes committed by Serb paramilitaries in a Bosnian town in 1992.

It is the first time that Serbian officials have been convicted by a UN court of involvement in crimes in Bosnia.

But judges said there was not sufficient evidence to convict the two Serbs of similar crimes committed in other towns and villages in Bosnia and Croatia.

Stanisic and Simatovic were convicted of aiding and abetting the crimes of murder, deportation, forcible transfer, and persecution in the northern town of Bosanski Samac in April 1992.

They both sentenced to 12 years imprisonment -- a judgment which can be appealed.

Stanisic was the head of Serbia’s State Security Service, and Simatovic was a senior intelligence operative with the service.

"Numerous crimes were committed against the non-Serb population ... including looting, rape, and the destruction of religious buildings and cultural monuments," said Presiding Judge Burton Hall.

Local Bosnian Croats and Muslims were forced into detention centres where they were held in inhumane conditions, tortured and killed, he added.

"The trial chamber is satisfied that the accused provided practical assistance which had a substantial effect on the commission of the crimes of murder, forcible displacement, and persecution committed in Bosanski Samac and were aware that their acts assisted in their commission."

Stanisic and Simatovic were originally acquitted in 2013 by judges who said prosecutors had failed to prove important elements of their links to the crimes.

Appeals judges then quashed the not-guilty verdicts in 2015 and ordered the retrial that took place at the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.

Wednesday's verdicts are the final UN prosecution in The Hague for crimes committed during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

Earlier this month, appeals judges at the same court confirmed former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic’s convictions for his role in atrocities throughout the Bosnian war and upheld his life sentence.

Meanwhile, Milošević was also charged with fomenting war crimes but he died in his cell in 2006 before judges could deliver verdicts.