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COURTSIDE: Milan Simic Jailed

Bosnian Serb jailed for five years after he admitted to abusing prisoners.
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A former Bosnian Serb politician, Milan Simic, was jailed for five years for crimes against humanity last week after pleading guilty to beating and torturing detainees in a prison camp at Bosanski Samac in 1992.


This is the sixth case in which a defendant has pleaded guilty as part of a deal between the accused and the prosecution.


The judges were not bound by this agreement, but, as with the previous cases, their sentencing was in line with the deal struck between the defence and prosecutors, according to which the latter recommended a 3-5 year sentence if Simic pleaded guilty.


The judges said that without a guilty plea, the jail term would have been longer, considering the seriousness of the crimes.


Simic admitted that in spring 1992, while head of a provisional local government for the town of Bosanski Samac, he was part of a group of men who beat detainees Hasan Bicic, Muhamed Bicic, Perica Misic and Ibrahim Salkic.


The men were beaten with weapons, then Simic kicked them in their genitals and gunshots were fired over their heads.


Simic also admitted that he, along with several other men, repeatedly beat Safet Hadzialijagic with a variety of weapons. Simic then fired over the victim's head.


During the beating, Hadzialijagic was forced to pull down his pants and one of the Serbs accompanying Simic produced a knife and threatened to cut off his penis.


By pleading guilty, Simic accepted that his crimes fell under the definition crimes against humanity - that is part of a broader, widespread and systematic attack against civilians in Bosanski Samac.


The judges described Simic's acts as "barbaric and shocking".


But they said they were not convinced that defendant had played any wider part in the policy of mistreating civilians in Bosanski Samac.


The judges said they took into account not just his admission of guilt, his remorse and apology to the victims, but also his voluntary surrender to the tribunal.


The accused is paraplegic and wheel-chair bound, the result of an accident which happened long after he committed the crimes. He requires constant medical care.


Simic was jailed for five years on each of two counts of crimes against humanity, with the sentences to run concurrently.


The 835 days he has already spent in detention will be cut off the sentences, but he lost a bid to have his time on provisional release, at home in Bosanski Samac, subtracted. The judges said this did not count as house arrest.


Simic is the sixth defendant to have negotiated his guilty plea with the prosecution. The first was one in the same case - Stevan Todorovic - followed by the three in Keraterm case.


Former Bosnian Serb president Biljana Plavsic's is the most recent, having changed her plea to guilty this month, with a sentencing hearing due on December 16 and 17.


The first person to admit crimes and express his regret and apologies to the victims was Drazen Erdemovic, but without an agreement between defence and prosecution. Goran Jelisic also pleaded guilty, not only without any such agreement but also no expression of remorse, and was jailed for 40 years.


Vjera Bogati is an IWPR special correspondent at The Hague and a journalist with SENSE News Agency.


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