A former Bosnian Muslim army commander was acquitted of war crimes charges Wednesday relating to the massacres of Croat civilians during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. Judges at the U.N. war crimes tribunal ordered the immediate release of Sefer Halilovic, 53, saying prosecutors had failed to prove he had been in charge of troops who carried out the killings in the villages of Grabovica and Uzdol.
The villages were occupied during an operation by Muslim forces to capture territory held by Bosnian Croats to end a blockade of the city of Mostar in 1993.
The three-judge panel said vicious murders of women, children and innocent people in their beds had been committed, but the prosecution's case was insufficient to prove Halilovic had effective control over the units that committed the crimes.
The tribunal "decided the accused is found not guilty and therefore is acquitted of murder," said the judgment. "A commander cannot be held responsible for the crimes of persons not under his command." In a stinging rejection of the prosecution case, presiding Chinese Judge Liu Daqun said they also failed to prove he had been in a position of superior authority. Halilovic was "team leader of an inspection team not entrusted with command authority, but coordinating and monitoring," reports the AP. I.L.