Plavsic, 72, is the highest-ranking politician from the former Yugoslavia to be sentenced thus far by the tribunal, which was created by the U.N. Security Council in 1993 specifically to prosecute war criminals from the Balkan wars.
Judge Richard May said that although Plavsic expressed remorse for her actions, she participated in crimes of “utmost gravity” during the war and that “undue lenience would be misplaced.”
Plavsic, who was second only to wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, closed her eyes to murder, torture and plunder, the court said. Bosnians were “mistreated, raped, tortured and killed” in a campaign of ethnic cleansing to create a “Greater Serbia” that was embraced and promoted by Plavsic, May said. Experts estimate that more than 200,000 people were killed in the war.
“No sentence which the trial chamber passes can fully reflect the horror of what occurred or the terrible impact on thousands of victims,” May said.
The prosecution had recommended a sentence of 15 to 25 years imprisonment, but the court said Plavsic’s sentence was mitigated by her advanced age and testimony on her behalf by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and others. Character witnesses said Plavsic, who met with President Clinton in 1997, helped implement the peace agreement negotiated in 1995 in Dayton, Ohio.
Observers reported Plavsic showed no emotion or reaction after the sentence pronouncement, but in a statement read out during the trial by her lawyer, Plavsic said she hoped her trial would “offer some consolation to the innocent victims — Muslim, Croat and Serb.”
Nicknamed “the Serbian empress” by the notorious Serbian warlord Zeljko Raznatovic, known as Arkan, Plavsic is the only woman among more than 100 men indicted for war crimes in the Balkan wars.
Since the tribunal began, only two other Bosnian Serbs have pleaded guilty: former prison official Goran Jelisic was jailed in 1998 for 40 years after pleading guilty to 31 counts of war crimes and soldier Drazen Erdemovic was jailed in 1996 for 10 years.
Plavsic refused to testify against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who is also on trial before the tribunal of three judges.