Bosnian Serb Officer Convicted of Abusing Civilians in Besieged Sarajevo

The Cantonal Court in Sarajevo has convicted Veljko Papic, the wartime commander of the Third Company of the Bosnian Serb Army's Sarajevo-Romanija Corps' First Battalion, of giving orders forcing non-Serb civilians to do hard labour and putting them in life-threatening situations on the front lines in besieged Sarajevo during wartime.

Papic was found guilty of crimes against the civilian population in the Grbavica and Kovacici neighbourhoods of the Bosnian capital in 1993 and 1994, the Cantonal Court told BIRN on Thursday.

The verdict, which was handed down on January 18 but has not been made public yet, said that Papic made civilians who were part of a forced labour squad do hard and humiliating physical labour, usually on the front lines, while also psychologically abusing them.

The civilians could not refuse to carry out the tasks because they were afraid for their own lives and the lives of their family members, as they had been threatened with death, the verdict said.

The verdict also said that Papic ordered four of the civilians who were part of the forced labour squad to remove the bodies of two young Sarajevans, Bosko Brkic and Admira Ismic, who were killed on May 18, 1993 as they tried to cross the Vrbanja bridge in the city centre.

Ismic, a Bosniak, and her boyfriend Brkic, a Serb, became known after their deaths as the 'Sarajevo Romeo and Juliet'.

The verdict said that Papic ordered the four civilians to remove the couple's bodies from the demarcation line between the Bosnian Serb Army and the Bosniak-led Bosnian Army near the Vrbanja bridge, "threatening them that he would kill their families should they try to flee".

Papic was also found guilty of making three members of the forced labour squad plant...

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