Bosnian Serb Receives 20-Year Prison Sentence For Wartime Atrocities -- Dusan Tadic Accused Of Using `Sadistic Brutality' In Committing Crimes Against Muslims And Croats

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - A war criminal convicted of torturing and killing his neighbors during the Bosnian conflict was sentenced to 20 years in prison today.

Dusan Tadic, 41, a Bosnian Serb, had been found guilty on May 7 of five war crimes and six crimes against humanity for atrocities in the Prijedor region of northwest Bosnia in 1992. He had faced life imprisonment.

Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald said Tadic committed crimes against Muslims and Croats "intentionally and with sadistic brutality, using knives, weapons, iron bars, the butt of a pistol, sticks and by kicking . . . tightening a noose around the neck of one of them until he lost consciousness. Why?'

The charges against Tadic had detailed his involvement in a notorious ethnic purge, including the slashing deaths of two Muslim policemen and herding civilians into three Serb-run prison camps and returning to the camps to beat and torture them.

McDonald also described the ethnic hatred whipped up by political leaders before Bosnia erupted into war. "You responded to this campaign . . . and you must bear responsibility for your criminal conduct," she said.

"To condone your actions even when committed in this context is to give effect to a base view of morality and invite anarchy," McDonald said.

Tadic's attorney said the court over-reacted. "The fact is he was a very small player," said attorney Nikola Kostich, a "guinea pig" for the court.

Kostich added that the court had "boxed itself in" in terms of sentencing suspects like former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who has been indicted twice for genocide but is still at large in Bosnia.

Tadic will likely serve any sentence in an Italian or a Finnish prison.

Unlike the post-World War II military tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo, the Hague court has no death sentence.

The only other war criminal convicted by the Hague-based court is Drazen Erdemovic, a Croat who took part in a July 1995 Bosnian Serb massacre of unarmed Muslims at Srebrenica.

Serb leaders were angered by the sentencing of Tadic.

"This is a political sentence . . . We are very bitter that care was not taken to put this trial on a better political foundation," said Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serb member of Bosnia's multiethnic joint presidency.

Krajisnik and other hard-line nationalists attended a funeral yesterday for Simo Drljaca, the former police chief in Prijedor killed while resisting arrest during a NATO raid last Thursday.

Drljaca, a Karadzic ally, was accused of helping orchestrate expulsions of Muslims and Croats from the Prijedor region early in the Bosnian war in 1992.

A bomb exploded outside offices of U.N. international monitors in Bosnia's Serb-controlled territory, but international envoys and the NATO-led peace force said there was no sign that the explosion in Zvornik was part of an organized campaign of retaliation for the NATO raid.