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Bosnian Muslims regret Milosevic won't be punished

By Staff
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SARAJEVO, March 11 (Reuters) Bosnian Muslim war victims and leaders today said they wished former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had lived long enough to face punishment by the United Nations war crimes tribunal.

''It would have been just if he had lived to the day of his conviction and that he served the sentence for the crimes that he committed,'' Munira Subasic, a survivor of the 1995 Serb massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica, told Reuters.

Milosevic was found dead today in his cell in The Hague, where he was being tried for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the 1990s conflicts in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.

The four-year-long trial was expected to conclude later this year.

His 66-count indictment included the Bosnian Serb siege of Sarajevo in Bosnia's 1992-95 war, in which more than 10,000 people were killed, and the killings in the U.N. ''safe area'' of Srebrenica, Europe's worst single atrocity since World War Two.

''This is God's justice and it will reach all war criminals sooner or later,'' said Subasic, who lost her husband, son, father and 19 other male relatives in the massacre.

''But the knowledge that he is dead will not ease our pain over the lost ones.'' At least 100,000 people, mostly Bosnian Muslims, died in the war, in which Belgrade-backed Bosnian Serbs carved out and ''ethnically cleansed'' their Serb Republic after Muslims and Croats decided to break away from former Yugoslavia.

Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his former military chief Ratko Mladic have also been indicted twice for genocide, for Srebrenica and Sarajevo, but they remain at large.

''EPOCH OVER'' Edin Ramovic, 42, who was wounded in the shoulder by Serb machinegun fire from the hills around Sarajevo in 1993, said Milosevic seemed to have found his salvation in death.

''But for us and for those that were killed, even the conviction would mean little, because nothing could change what had happened,'' Ramovic said.

Bakira Hasecic, a Muslim victim of Serb rape in eastern Bosnia, said Milosevic ''was one of the main initiators of the aggression and genocide ... and stood behind the criminals who bestially tortured and raped Muslim women during the war''.

Bosnian Muslim leader Sulejman Tihic said he hoped a genocide trial at the International Court of Justice in which Sarajevo is suing Belgrade -- the first such prosecution of a state -- would help establish Milosevic's role in Bosnia.

''I still believe that we have enough evidence to prove that he was deeply involved in wartime events in Bosnia in our genocide and aggression lawsuit against Serbia and Montenegro,'' said Tihic, the Muslim member of Bosnia's tri-presidency.

Bosnian Serb Republic President Dragan Cavic told reporters in Banja Luka that ''one historical individual who had often been a subject of dispute, criticism and admiration has left the political scene, and with Milosevic's death one epoch is over''.

''In any case, we will never get the answer from the Hague tribunal if Milosevic was guilty or innocent,'' Cavic said.

In Pale, Bosnian Serb wartime capital in the mountains east of Sarajevo, most people were saddened by the news.

''He was the only person who wanted to prove the Serbs are not genocidal,'' an elderly man told Reuters television.

REUTERS KD VC2216

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