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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

‘Mistress of life and death’ gets 14 years for Balkan war crimes  

Bosnia female fighter Azra Bašić was sentenced to more than a decade

Azra Bašić, left, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison. AFP / STR
Azra Bašić, left, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison. AFP / STR

In the most severe sentence to be handed to a woman for atrocities committed during the Bosnian conflict, Azra Bašić has been sentenced to 14 years.

A court in Bosnia has sentenced Bašić, known as "the mistress of life and death", for war crimes committed in the 1990s during the Balkan war.

Bašić is said to have participated in the torture of ethnic-Serb civilians, with the judge commenting that she was responsible for "particular cruelty" towards those detained by Bosnian-Croat forces.

Witnesses said she carved crosses into prisoners' foreheads and forced one man to drink petrol before setting fire to his hands and face. She also forced others to crawl naked across broken glass, to eat money, to walk barefoot on glass and to lick blood off a man's dead body, the court found.

Speaking at the trial, witness Dusan Nedic said he recalled when he saw Bašić enter the detention facility he was being held at he felt hopeful as he believed a woman would not be as aggressive as a man. However her actions proved him wrong.

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"She started to beat the detainees, she was jumping on them while they were on the floor," Mr Nedic said.

The most serious of her offences was the murder of a restrained prisoner who she stabbed in the neck, the judge at the Bosnian court said.

The 58-year-old had been living in Kentucky in the US under an alias for almost 20 years before her arrest in 2011.

Friends described her as "big-hearted" and "a very nice lady".

She waged a long battle against deportation, arguing that she did not commit any war crimes and that she had been badly mistreated in a Serbian prison camp.

At least 100,000 people in total died during fighting in the Bosnian war. The conflict lasted nearly four years a peace deal brought it to an end in 1995.

Biljana Plavšić, 87, the former Bosnian president, is the most high profile female war criminal of the former Yugoslavia.She was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2003 after pleading guilty at The Hague.

In November, Slobodan Praljak, 72, drank what he said was poison upon hearing the verdict to his appeal at The Hague. The Croat war criminal died after deliberately drinking a liquid seconds after a judge confirmed his 20-year sentence for involvement in crimes during the Bosnian war of the 1990s.

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