Prison chief gets 23 years for ‘sadistic’ war crimes

A BOSNIAN Serb prison camp commander who allowed Muslim prisoners to be raped, tortured and murdered was sentenced to 23 years in jail at the UN Yugoslav tribunal in the Hague yesterday.

Dragan Nikolic, 46, stood stone-faced as presiding Judge Wolfgang Schomburg read the sentence, which was longer than the 15 years prosecutors had recommended.

Judge Schomburg said Nikolic deserved to be sentenced to life in prison for his “sadistic” crimes, but the judgment was lenient because he had admitted guilt and expressed remorse.

“Not a single day or night at the camp passed by without Dragan Nikolic and others committing barbarous acts,” including beatings with iron bars and rubber tubing with lead inside, Judge Schomburg said Nikolic “personally removed women of all ages from the hangar, handing them over to men whom he knew would sexually abuse or rape them”.

Nikolic was the first suspect indicted for war crimes at the tribunal, in 1994. He eluded arrest until April 2000, and after initially professing innocence, he confessed to four charges in September as part of a plea agreement.

In exchange, UN prosecutors dropped four other charges against him and recommended a 15-year sentence.

The Susica prison, a converted hangar, housed up to 500 people in a room of 165ft by 100ft, including women and children. Between May and October of 1992, as many as 8,000 Muslim civilians from the surrounding Vlasenica region were held for periods up to several months.

A former metal worker, Nikolic was initially charged with 80 counts of war crimes, including personal involvement in nightly rapes and beatings of young girls at the Susica prison camp in eastern Bosnia. Prosecutors scaled back the number to eight to conform to new rules calling for swifter trials.

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