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Serbia sentences 14 for war crimes in 1991

Serbia sentenced 14 former soldiers for war crimes committed in 1991.

Serbia sentences ex soldiers for war crimes 1991 june 26 2012Enlarge
Croatian war veterans from the 1991-1995 Serbo - Croatian war kneel down as they pray in front of main Zagreb’s cathedral in December, 2009. A special Serbian war crimes court sentenced 14 ex-soldiers and paramilitaries to 128 years in prison for the killings of 70 Croat civilians in 1991 on June 26, 2012. (HRVOJE POLAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A special war crimes court in Serbia sentenced 14 former Yugoslav Army soldiers and paramilitary to a total of 128 years in prison for the killings of 70 Croat civilians in 1991, according to Reuters.

According to the Associated Press, the court ruled that the soldiers, who fought against Croatia's independence from the former Yugoslavia, went on a killing spree in the Croatian village of Lovas in October and November of 1991.

The court said it was proven beyond a doubt that the ex-soldiers were guilty of the killings, as well as of mistreating and torturing civilians, some of whom were ordered to walk through minefields as human shields, Reuters reported.

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The AP said 22 civilians died after being forced to cross a mined clover field and another 48 were killed in their houses and yards, according to the judges.

Lovro Gersner, a survivor, told the court that the Serb fighters ordered Croats to wear white bands and mark their houses with white ribbons.

"With this (ruling) we have sent a reconciliatory message to all the war crimes victims throughout former Yugoslavia," said Bruno Vekaric, the assistant war crime prosecutor, according to Reuters.

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In a bid to join the European Union, Serbia has been trying to show the 27-nation bloc that it is serious about punishing war crimes, with the arrests last year of Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic and Serb rebel leader Goran Hadzic for war crimes.

Serbia's recently elected nationalist president, Tomislav Nikolic, has toned down his anti-Western sentiments since taking office and said in June, "We will do everything possible to receive EU approval before the end of the year to open accession negotiations," according to ABC News.

Serbia became an official candidate for EU membership in March. Formal accession talks, which are the next step, normally drag on for years, said ABC News.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/120626/serbia-sentences-14-war-crimes-1991