JEVO (AFP) - Bosnia's war crimes court Tuesday sentenced seven Serbs to up to 42 years in jail for committing genocide during the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995, in the first such ruling by a local court.
Six of them were convicted of direct participation in the murder of more than 1,000 Muslims in a single day in Kravice, near the ill-fated eastern Bosnian town, said Court of Bosnia-Hercegovina judge Hilmo Vucinic.
Those found guilty were sentenced to between 38 and 42 years in prison, while four others were acquitted.
"They consciously killed hundreds of Bosnian Muslims with the aim of permanently removing Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica," the judge said.
The killings were part of a week-long killing spree by Bosnian Serb forces which took place at a warehouse of an agricultural cooperative near Srebrenica.
The Muslim victims, who were either captured or surrendered to the Serbs, were crammed into the Kravica warehouse measuring 40 by 10 metres, before being killed.
Vucinic said evidence clearly showed some of the accused fired machine guns and threw hand grenades at the helpless prisoners. The others were armed guards who prevented prisoners from escaping through windows.
The bodies of those killed were dumped into a mass grave that had been prepared in advance, and were later moved to several other sites in a bid to cover up the atrocity.
"The accused did not only deprive the killed men of their basic human rights, the right to life ... they caused lasting pain to their families as some of them are still searching for the bones of their loved ones," the judge said.
Munira Subasic, the head of an association of Srebrenica massacre survivors, expressed satisfaction with the verdict but stressed that nothing could ease her pain.
"The mothers of these men still have their sons, their wives still have husbands, their children still have fathers and I am still looking for my son's bones," said Subasic, who lost her husband and son in the massacre.
The case against the 10 wartime Bosnian Serb special police officers and a former soldier was the first before the Court of Bosnia-Hercegovina in which the suspects were accused of genocide.
It was also the first concerning crimes committed in Srebrenica.
The trial chamber was composed of judges from Bosnia, the Netherlands and the United States.
Those found guilty include Milos Stupar, 42, the wartime commander of a Bosnian Serb special police squad who was found guilty of failing to prevent the murders and punishing the perpetrators. Stupar and three others had still been members of the Bosnian Serb police force when they were arrested in 2005.
In the days after the fall of the UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica on July 11, 1995, Serb troops captured, detained and executed some 8,000 Muslim men from the enclave.
Muslim women and children were forcibly transferred to Muslim held parts of Bosnia. The Srebrenica massacre has been classified as an act of genocide by the International Court of Justice and the UN war crimes tribunal, both based at The Hague.
The Bosnian war crimes chamber was established in 2005 in a bid to ease the burden on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
So far, the ICTY has sentenced six of the 19 people indicted for the Srebrenica massacre.
General Radislav Krstic, the highest ranking Bosnian Serb sentenced by ICTY over the massacre, was imprisoned for 35 years in April 2004 after being found guilty of aiding and abetting genocide. The massacre's alleged mastermind, Radovan Karadzic, was arrested in Serbia a week ago and is waging a legal fight against his transfer to the ICTY. His military chief Ratko Mladic remains at large.