Col. Ljubisa Beara, the Bosnian Serb Army security chief sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide in 2010 in the massacre of as many as 8,000 Muslim men and boys near Srebrenica in 1995 — the worst mass murder in Europe since World War II — died on Wednesday in Berlin. He was 77.
His death was confirmed by Peggy Fiebig, a spokeswoman for the Berlin state’s Justice Department, but she did not give a cause.
Colonel Beara, who was being held at Tegel prison in Berlin, surrendered to the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague in 2004. The tribunal had accused the Serbian government of sheltering him for the two years after he was indicted on charges stemming from his role in the massacre.
What amounted to a five-day killing frenzy began when Serb soldiers and police units overran Muslim forces and United Nations troops guarding what was supposed to have been a haven for Muslim refugees who had fled ethnic cleansing during the Bosnian war. Srebrenica is in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, described the massacre as the worst war crime in Europe since the Second World War.
Colonel Beara and Vujadin Popovic, another Bosnian Serb security commander, were convicted of genocide and sentenced to life terms. The convictions were upheld in 2015.
Colonel Beara was specifically accused of overseeing the beheading of up to 100 men and boys, of supervising the digging of mass graves, and of floodlighting killing zones so that firing squads could conduct executions at night. He was also charged with forcibly transferring Muslim women and children from Srebrenica.
The International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague was established to prosecute war crimes perpetrated during the internecine bloodletting that followed the rupture of the former Yugoslavia.
Ljubisa Beara (pronounced lee-OO-bee-sha bay-AH-ra) was born on July 14, 1939, in Sarajevo, now the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As a colonel and chief of security in the Bosnian Serb Army, he was responsible for the military police, the Ministry of the Interior and the Bosnian Muslim prisoners captured after the fall of Srebrenica.
The judges at The Hague concluded that Colonel Beara “was the most senior officer of the Security Branch and had the clearest overall picture of the massive scale and scope of the killing operation.”
They added: “Beara had a very personal view of the staggering number of victims destined for execution. Steeped in this knowledge, he became, in the opinion of the Trial Chamber, a driving force behind the murder enterprise.”
The former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic was convicted of crimes committed during the Bosnian war and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. A verdict in the trial of Gen. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military commander who was captured in 2011, is expected later this year.
Forensic experts have so far identified more than 6,100 of the estimated 8,000 Muslim victims of the Srebrenica massacre. Their remains have been reburied at a memorial center near where they were last seen alive.
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