A UN war crimes court sentenced ex-Yugoslav army chief Momcilo Perisic to 27 years in jail on Tuesday for helping the Bosnian Serb army murder and persecute Bosnian Muslims including at Srebrenica in 1995.
His sentencing sparked mixed reactions in the Balkans, with Serbia calling it excessive and Bosnia too lenient.
Perisic, 67, the Yugoslav army's highest-ranking officer, was found guilty of 12 of 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including at Srebrenica, scene of Europe's worst wartime atrocity since World War II, as well as the shelling and sniping of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo during its infamous siege from 1992-95.
He is the first official from the Belgrade-controlled Yugoslav republic to be convicted for crimes committed in Bosnia. Belgrade has always denied any involvement in the war in Bosnia.
Bakone Moloto, presiding judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said Perisic knew the Bosnian Serb army's actions "encompassed grave crimes against the civilian population".
Yet the former chief-of-staff gave personnel, officers, weapons and logistical support to the Bosnian Serb army, the VRS, as well as the self-proclaimed Republic of Krajina's army (SVK), knowing it would be used to wage war and commit crimes against civilians.
In 1994, the Yugoslav army supplied more than 7,500 shells and over 25 million infantry bullets.
Judges found Perisic guilty on four charges at Srebrenica, where some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered after the UN-protected enclave was overrun, as well as the 44-month sniping and shelling siege of Sarajevo. He was also sentenced for his role in the shelling of Zagreb by Croatian Serbs in May 1995.
Perisic "was aware that the VRS was conducting a campaign of sniping and shelling during the siege of Sarajevo", the judges said.
Moloto, clearing Perisic on a count of extermination at Srebrenica, said however the former general "could not have foreseen" that the Bosnian Serb army would exterminate Muslims after the UN-protected enclave fell. Yet after learning of the massacre he still provided support for the Serb troops.
"You kept providing assistance to the VRS for months after being informed of the VRS's enormous massacre in Srebrenica," the judge said.
Prosecutors in March asked for life imprisonment against Perisic, a close collaborator of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic who died in his Hague detention cell in 2006.
Perisic is the only senior Yugoslav official to be sentenced before the court for the Srebrenica massacre after Milosevic, also implicated in the mass killings, died mid-trial.
The 18 other defendants for their role at Srebrenica are mainly Bosnian Serbs including former army chief Ratko Mladic, the court's most-wanted man until his arrest in May.
Judge Moloto said that although Perisic had a "collaborative relationship" with Mladic and substantially helped his operations, "the evidence does not establish that he exercised effective control over him".
Perisic's lawyer Gregor Guy-Smith said Tuesday his client was disappointed with the judgement saying he would appeal.
Reaction in the Balkans to the sentencing was mixed, with Serbia saying it was excessive, and Bosnia saying it was too mild.
"I regret this extremely high sentence," Serbian Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac was quoted by Blic daily's Internet site as saying.
In Bosnia the sentence was slammed, with Srebrenica massacre survivors also saying it would not contribute to reconciliation in the volatile Balkan region.
The judgement "is killing the victims again", the head of the Srebrenica Mothers association, Munira Subasic, told the Bosnian ONASA news agency.
Natasa Kandic, a prominent Serbian human rights activist, said "the verdict is appropriate and corresponds" to the crimes he was found guilty of, Belgrade-based Beta news agency reported.