Momcilo Krajisnik, Bosnian Serb Convicted of War Crimes, Dies at 75

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Momcilo Krajisnik, a Bosnian Serb leader who was convicted of crimes against humanity for his involvement in the 1992-95 Bosnian war, died on Tuesday in a hospital in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was 75.

The cause was the novel coronavirus, the hospital said.

Mr. Krajisnik, a hard-line Serbian nationalist, was one of the most prominent politicians in the Bosnian war, which claimed 100,000 lives and displaced more than two million people. As the speaker of the separatist Bosnian Serb Parliament and a close adviser to the wartime leader, Radovan Karadzic, he was among the leadership that oversaw plans to persecute and forcibly expel non-Serbs from parts of Bosnia.

In 2006, after a 30-month trial before the United Nations tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Mr. Krajisnik was convicted and sentenced to 27 years in prison for involvement in crimes against humanity; the judges found him guilty of the deportation, persecution, murder, extermination and forced transfer of Bosnian Muslims and Croats. At the time, Mr. Krajisnik was the highest-ranking Serbian politician convicted by the court, as Mr. Karadzic remained a fugitive. Mr. Karadzic was convicted of war crimes in 2016.

Mr. Krajisnik ended up spending 13 years in detention and prison, and throughout he claimed his innocence.

Mr. Krajisnik said he was unaware of any crimes, even as prosecutors charged that he played a crucial role in coordinating ethnic separation campaigns in dozens of Bosnian townships. Mr. Krajisnik was acquitted on counts of genocide for lack of evidence, and his sentence was reduced to 20 years in 2009.

“Momcilo Krajisnik was involved in both political, and military and police activities,” said Eric Gordy, a professor of sociology at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London.

“But right until his death, he never acknowledged any of the damage that he had done,” Mr. Gordy said. “You can imagine how crushing it is for victims of the genocide.”

Momcilo Krajisnik was born on Jan. 20, 1945, in Zabrde, a village near Sarajevo, now the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. An economist by training, he started his career at Energoinvest, a state-owned energy company where he became a finance executive and met Mr. Karadzic, a fellow employee.

Mr. Krajisnik held several high-ranking political positions in the 1990s, including speaker of the Bosnian Serb Parliament and board member of the Serbian Democratic Party.

As a representative of the rebel Serbs during the Bosnian peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, in 1995, Mr. Krajisnik earned the nickname “Mr. No” for his uncompromising stance during negotiations. He was arrested in 2000 at his parents’ Bosnian home by French NATO troops and taken to the international tribunal in The Hague.

Mr. Krajisnik was released from a British prison in 2013, and he spent his final years in his wartime stronghold of Pale, near Sarajevo.

Mr. Krajisnik was married to Milenka Micevic, who died in 1992. His survivors include a daughter, Milica, and two sons, Milos and Njegos.

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