A former Bosnian Serb army officer convicted for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre died on February 17, due to apparent complications from a leg amputation, his lawyer told Serbian media.
Milan Gvero, 75, was assistant commander for morale, legal and religious affairs in the Bosnian Serb army. At his trial at the Hague tribunal, judges found that he contributed to a joint criminal enterprise to forcibly remove the population of the Srebrenica enclave in 1995.
Srebrenica, a town in eastern Bosnia, was declared a United Nations safe area in 1993 but fell to Bosnian Serb forces on July 11, 1995. The ensuing massacre of more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys is considered the worst single atrocity on European soil since the Second World War.
Convicted of charges of persecution and forcible population transfer, Gvero was sentenced to five years in prison in June 2010. He was granted early release shortly after that.
According to a death certificate released this week by the tribunal, Gvero passed away in Belgrade.
Reading out the verdict in 2010, presiding Judge Carmel Agius said that Gvero “carried out key functions relating to external propaganda and interaction with international organisations, with the aim to support the plan to forcibly transfer the populations from the enclaves”.
The judge said that after the Bosnian Serb army launched an attack on Srebrenica, Gvero issued a media statement saying the military’s activities aimed to “neutralise Muslim terrorists, and not against any civilians or [the UN peacekeeping force]”.
Judge Agius said this “blatantly false statement” was intended to “mislead the international authorities concerned with protecting the enclave, with a view to delaying any action that could frustrate [the Bosnian Serb army’s] plans”.
The appeals process in Gvero’s case was suspended for more than two years for health reasons. After being declared fit to appeal against the judgement in November 2012, his defence lawyers filed a 94 page appeal brief on his behalf.
Now, however, Gvero’s appeal is likely to be declared moot, since the tribunal has never passed judgement on a deceased defendant.
Gvero stood trial alongside six co-defendants in the biggest case in the Hague tribunal’s history.
Two of the accused – senior officers Vujadin Popovic and Ljubisa Beara – were found guilty of committing genocide and sentenced to life in prison. Drago Nikolic, chief of security in the Zvornik Brigade of the Bosnian Serb army, was found guilty of aiding and abetting genocide, and was given a 35-year sentence. Radivoje Miletic, chief of operations and training in the main staff of the Bosnian Serb army, was convicted of murder and persecution and given 19 years. Vinko Pandurevic, who commanded the Zvornik Brigade, was found guilty of murder and given 13 years.
The surviving defendants in the case are appealing against the judgement, except for Ljubomir Borovcanin, former deputy commander of the Bosnian Serb interior ministry’s special police brigade. He was convicted of extermination and murder and sentenced to 17 years. Neither his defence nor the prosecution is appealing against his sentence.
Borovcanin was transferred to a prison in Denmark in November 2011.
Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.