Ex-Yugoslav army chief acquitted of aiding Serb atrocities

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UNITED Nations appeal judges have acquitted the former chief of the ­Yugoslav National Army of aiding and abetting atrocities by rebel Serbs, including the ­Srebrenica massacre, by providing them with military aid during the Balkan wars.

General Momcilo Perisic, a close ally of former ­Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, had been sentenced to 27 years in 2011 after being convicted of crimes including murder, inhumane acts and persecution.

Yesterday, judges ordered him to be freed immediately.

The judgment is a rare victory for Serbs at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, where most of the convicted suspects have been rebel Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia. It also supported Belgrade’s often-stated assertion that it did not deliberately assist in Bosnian Serb atrocities.

Perisic, wearing a dark suit and tie, looked down and raised his eyebrows as presiding judge Theodor Meron said his convictions were being overturned in a 4-1 ruling by the five-judge ­appeals panel.

It has long been known that Belgrade provided arms and other equipment to Bosnian Serb forces, but Judge Meron said the aid was for the Bosnian Serb “war effort” and prosecutors failed to prove it was given with the “specific intent” for forces led by Bosnian Serb military chief General Ratko Mladic to commit crimes.

Perisic’s original conviction marked the first time the United Nations court had found a ­civilian or military officer from ­Serbia guilty of war crimes in Bosnia, and was seen as highlighting the Yugoslav army’s ­far-reaching support for Serb forces in both Bosnia and Croatia.