A former member of the Bosnian Serb paramilitary forces has been jailed for 45 years for carrying out a reign of terror against Sarajevo civilians during the 1992-1995 war.
Veselin Vlahovic, dubbed the “Monster of Grbavica”, was “found guilty of crimes against humanity and this tribunal is sentencing him to 45 years in prison,” judge Zoran Bozic said on Friday.
“During systematic repression against the non-Serb population he participated in expulsion of his victims, he committed murders, he tortured, raped and imprisoned his victims,” the judge told a packed Sarajevo courtroom.
The sentence against Vlahovic, a Montenegrin, a is the most severe delivered for war crimes by a Bosnian court.
Dressed in light blue shirt, Vlahovic, 43, showed no reaction when the verdict was read out, drawing applause from members of victims’ associations in the heavily guarded courtroom.
‘Synonym for evil’
Vlahovic, sentenced on all 60 counts in his indictment, committed the crimes between May and July 1992, in three Sarajevo neighbourhoods controlled by Serb forces during the war: Grbavica, Kovacici and Vraca.
“He killed 31 people, took 14 people who have still been considered missing, raped 13 women,” prosecutor Behaija Krnjic said in a closing statement, having said earlier in the trial that Vlahovic’s “name was the synonym for evil”.
Vlahovic, who had pleaded not guilty at the start of the trial in April 2011, was charged with the “executions, enslavement, rape, physical and psychological torture” of Muslim and Croat civilians, as well as looting, according to the indictment.
During the trial Vlahovic insulted a witness, a local journalist who reported on his crimes during the war. He also sent an intimidating letter to the family of a victim, the prosecution said.
Vlahovic was arrested in March 2010 as a suspect in a number of burglaries in the Spanish town of Altea where he was living under a fake Bulgarian identity. He was extradited to Bosnia in August that year.
Previously the court’s most severe sentence was 43 years for Bosnian Serb Sanko Kojic over his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys.
Bosnia’s war claimed some 100,000 lives and created two million refugees, almost half of the country’s pre-war population.