Bosnia jails first woman on war crimes charges | News | DW | 01.05.2012
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Bosnia jails first woman on war crimes charges

Bosnia's special court for crimes related to its 1992-1995 war has convicted its first woman, a 39-year-old Muslim who confessed to participating in the killings of Croat civilians and prisoners of war.

A Bosnian former soldier was convicted on Monday of murdering Croat civilians and prisoners of war during the country's 1992-1995 war, becoming the first woman to be convicted in country on such charges.

Rasema Handanovic, 39, a Muslim single mother and naturalized US citizen, admitted to a Bosnian court that she participated in the killings of 18 Croat civilians and four prisoners of war in the southern village of Trusina on April 16, 1993.

Her confession was made in exchange for her testimony against other former members of the "Zulfikar" special unit of the Bosnian army, which prosecutors say carried out the execution-style killings. She was given a lighter sentence of five and a half years.

Criminal and victim

Handanovic, who was extradited from the United States to Bosnia in December, said she had been raped by Serb soldiers during the war and that her partner and other family members were killed in the conflict. She said she "committed a crime, but at the time I did not know that it was a crime."

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has convicted one woman, former Bosnian Serb president Biljana Plavsic, of crimes against humanity. Plavsic, now 81, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2003 but was granted early release in 2009.

Two other women, 40-year-old Albina Terzic and 44-year-old Marina Grubisc-Fejzic, are currently on trial in Sarajevo's war crimes court, both former members of the Bosnian Croat forces. A third woman, 37-year-old Bosnian Serb Monika Simonovic, has been arrested on suspicion of torturing Croat and Muslim prisoners but has yet to be indicted.

Bosnian Muslims and Croats were allied against Serb forces for most of the inter-ethnic war, but fought against each other for nearly a year between 1993 and 1994.

acb/ccp (AFP, Reuters)