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Bosnian Serb Prison Camp Guard Sentenced

October 28, 2003

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ A Bosnian Serb prison camp guard who pleaded guilty to crimes against humanity was sentenced to eight years in prison Tuesday for a series of murders and beatings in the Bosnian war.

Predrag Banovic agreed to the plea bargain with prosecutors and was convicted of one count of persecution. Prosecutors dropped an additional four counts in exchange for his admission of guilt.

In another case before U.N. war crimes judges, the tribunal’s president ordered the release of a convicted war criminal, Milan Simic, who had served two-thirds of a five-year prison sentence. A Bosnian Serb economist, Simic pleaded guilty to beating Muslim captives in Bosnia and was convicted of torture and sentenced in October.

The court noted he is a paraplegic who needs daily medical care and that he was receiving credit for good behavior and cooperating with authorities.

Presiding Judge Partick Robinson said Banovic, who was 23 at the time of the crimes, had murdered five Bosnian Muslims or Bosnian Croats at the Keraterm camp in Bosnia in 1992. He participated in the beating of another 28 prisoners, Robinson said.

Banovic, whose twin brother, Nenad, was acquitted of similar charges at the U.N. court, worked in the camp for about three months and ``took part in those beatings with the intent to inflict serious bodily harm or death,″ Robinson said.

The sentence was in line with a joint recommendation from the accused and prosecutors stated in the plea agreement, although the court was free to give punishment of up to life imprisonment.

Keraterm was one of three of the worst wartime camps in the northwestern Prijedor region of Bosnia where thousands of inmates were mistreated and killed.

The court rejected claims by Banovic’s defense lawyer that a weak intellect, low rank in the police force, and inability to withstand wartime propaganda against Muslims should reduce his sentence.

It did accept as mitigating circumstances his young age, cooperation with prosecutors, and expression of remorse. Predrag Banovic has already been in U.N. detention for two years and will serve the rest of his sentence in a European prison.

The brothers were apprehended in November 2001 by plainclothes policemen while selling peppers at a market in Obrenovac, south of Belgrade. They were indicted in 1995 with 10 other suspects in connection with crimes allegedly committed at the Keraterm prison camp in the Prijedor region of northwestern Bosnia.

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