`Serbia's Adolf' denies genocide at war crime trial

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HE BOASTED of killing 20 or 30 Muslims before his morning coffee and jokily called himself "Serbia's Adolf". But yesterday the wheels of international justice caught up with Goran Jelisic as the 30-year-old Bosnian Serb went on trial in The Hague for genocide.

Terree Bowers, prosecuting for the International War Crimes Tribunal, said Jelisic's Nazi nickname illustrated the "perverse pride" he took "in the genocidal symbolism that it represented".

He told the tribunal judges that Jelisic had admitted in interviews to killing many more victims than the dozen or so Muslims and Croats he admitted to. "We will never be able to fix the exact number," Mr Bowers said, "but his victims certainly number well over a hundred." Bosnia descended into an ethnic and religious civil war in 1992, pitting the former Yugoslav republic's Muslims and Catholic Croats against Orthodox Serbs.

According to Mr Bowers, Jelisic was released from prison in 1992 by the Bosnian Serb nationalists and sent to the northern town of Brcko on a mission to eliminate the town's Muslim-Croat majority.

As with most of northern and eastern Bosnia, Brcko succumbed quickly to the Bosnian Serbs' well-planned offensive in the spring of 1992. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Croats were left trapped behind the lines of the victorious Serbs.

The UN prosecutor said Jelisic told investigators he was given a list of prominent Muslims and Croats on arrival in Brcko and told to find and kill them. It would not have been difficult as non-Serb civilians were immediately herded into camps as soon as the Serbs took over a town. The detention centres were based in sports centres and factories.

A witness at the trial recalled watching Jelisic shoot a prisoner through the head while he begged for mercy. "It was my impression they [Jelisic and his colleagues] enjoyed it more when they begged for mercy," he said.

"He was not a reluctant tool of the genocide who was being compelled by Serb authorities to act against his will," the prosecutor said.

Jelisic's lawyer argues that his client is mentally unfit to stand trial. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge of genocide, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

If he is found guilty, it will be the first genocide conviction by the court, which was set up in the Dutch capital in 1993. An earlier genocide case against another Bosnian Serb, Milan Kovacevic, collapsed when the accused died in jail.