World digest 09/30/03

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Four Serbs convicted in '92 killing of 16 in Bosnia

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro -- A court convicted four former Serb paramilitary soldiers of war crimes Monday, sentencing them to up to 20 years in prison for the 1992 killing of 16 Muslim civilians in Bosnia.

The ruling was the first war crimes verdict since parliament appointed a special prosecutor in July to deal with the legacy of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

The four paramilitaries were part of a unit that seized the 15 Muslim men and one woman from a bus, stripped and tortured them at a hotel and then executed them with guns and knives -- dumping their bodies in the Drina River, according to court documents.

The court sentenced Djordje Sevic to 15 years and Dragutin Dragicevic, to 20 years. Both denied the charges. The two others, Milan Lukic and Oliver Krsmanovic, fled before trial and were sentenced in absentia to 20 years each.

Colombian rebels say they kidnapped tourists

BOGOTA, Colombia -- The second-largest rebel group in Colombia said Monday it was holding seven foreign backpackers kidnapped this month from an archaeological site in the mountains. It was the first claim of responsibility for the abduction.

The National Liberation Army, known as the ELN, did not make any demands in its statement, but said it was open to negotiations "to find a solution."

The group, which along with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, has been battling the government for four decades, also condemned the military operation under way to hunt for the kidnapped tourists.

The group of eight backpackers -- four Israelis, two Britons, a German and a Spaniard -- was abducted by gunmen on Sept. 12.

Nobel committee picks winner, remains silent

OSLO, Norway -- The committee that selects the winner of the annual Nobel Peace Prize has made its decision, but as usual offered no hints ahead of the Oct. 10 announcement.

The five-member committee works in secret during a series of meetings each year.

Nobel watchers say there is no clear favorite, but some names bandied about include Pope John Paul II, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Geir Lundestad, the committee's nonvoting secretary, would only say that the committee reached a decision.

"I can't say whether any winner was selected, or anything else," he said.

The Nobel prizes will be presented Dec. 10.

Interpol working to make global crime database

BENIDORM, Spain -- Interpol is working to complete a new global database that will help its 181 member countries fight terrorism and other crimes, the secretary general of the international police agency said Monday.

Seventy-eight countries participate in the agency's database, an Internet-based system that provides direct access to Interpol files. By Dec. 31, the agency hopes to finish the project so all its members can send and retrieve real-time data, Secretary General Ronald Noble said.

The database "will permit us to do something today that we weren't able to do two, three, four or five years ago," Noble said at the start of Interpol's annual conference.

Japanese court rules for Chinese gas victims

TOKYO -- A Japanese court awarded $1.7 million in damages Monday to a group of Chinese for injuries or deaths of relatives caused by chemical shells and other weapons abandoned in China by the Japanese army after World War II.

The decision came months after another Japanese court rejected a similar claim by a different group of Chinese -- the first legal ruling on a legacy of the war that remains a sore spot between Japan and China five decades later.

Japanese officials said they would study the decision before deciding whether to appeal.

About 700,000 Japanese chemical weapons were left on Chinese soil by the Imperial Japanese Army after its defeat in World War II. China says the abandoned weapons have killed at least 2,000 Chinese since 1945.-- From wire reports

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