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Friday, Dec. 20, 2002 at 3:30 AM
The former Bosnian Serb President, Biljana Plavsic, has said "fear" blinded her to the atrocities Serbs were committing during the Bosnian war. Today She was sentenced to 25 year in prison.
Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 16:34 GMT
Bosnian Serb leader 'blinded by fear'
Plavsic made a surprise guilty plea in October
The former Bosnian Serb President, Biljana Plavsic, has said "fear" blinded her to the atrocities Serbs were committing during the Bosnian war.
She took the stand shortly after former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke in her support at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
You must strive to find whatever justice this world can offer, not only for me, but also for the innocent victims of this war
Mrs Plavsic, has pleaded guilty to crimes against humanity and faces possible life imprisonment.
In a statement she read on Tuesday, she admitted that "many thousands of innocent people were victims of an organised effort to remove Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from territory claimed by Serbs".
"At the time I convinced myself that this [was] a matter of survival and self-defence, but [that] explanation... offers no justification," she said.
Mrs Plavsic is the highest-ranking Serb leader to admit to crimes against humanity and the only woman to appear before the tribunal.
Albright had one face-to-face meeting with Plavsic
"You must strive in your judgement to find whatever justice this world can offer, not only for me, but also for the innocent victims of this war," she told the three-judge panel.
Mrs Albright said that towards the end of the Bosnian war in 1992-1995 Mrs Plavsic had split from the Serb hardliners and stood up for the Dayton peace accords.
Mrs Albright - who at the time was the US ambassador to the United Nations - also spoke of the "unimaginable horrors" of the Bosnian war "unseen in Europe since World War II".
Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
Swedish diplomat Carl Bildt
Former OSCE mission head Robert Frowick
Nobel Peace prize winner Elie Wiesel
Former Bosnian Serb PM Milorad Dodik
Former deputy head of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Alex Boraine
"Obviously, she [Plavsic] was involved in horrendous things," Mrs Albright said.
She also said Mrs Plavsic took political risk in supporting the Dayton agreement, and that this in the end cost her the Bosnian Serb presidency.
Mrs Albright was Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001 and met Plavsic in 1997. She was appearing both for the prosecution and the defence.
Carl Bildt - who served as the first international envoy to Bosnia after the war ended - was called by the defence alone.
Radovan Karadzic: Still at large
"She wanted to preserve the possibility of Serbs, Croats and Muslims living together in the future," he said.
Mrs Plavsic was a deputy of wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is now at the top of the prosecutors' wanted list.
She was originally charged with genocide, persecution, extermination and deportation - but all but one charge was dropped after she pleaded guilty to persecution.
Her lawyers said her changed plea showed "her remorse fully and unconditionally".
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