News 12 Sep 17

Bosnia Urged to Acquit Srebrenica Commander Oric

The defence lawyer in the high-profile trial of the Bosnian Army’s former commander in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, urged the court to acquit him of killing three captive Serb soldiers in 1992.

Admir Muslimovic
BIRN
Sarajevo
Naser Oric outside the state court in Sarajevo. Photo: BIRN.

In its closing statement at the politically-charged trial of former Srebrenica commander Naser Oric at the state court in Sarajevo on Tuesday, the defence said that the entire indictment, as well as the prosecution’s evidence, was based on statements by a non-credible witness.

The defence argued that Oric and former Bosnian Army soldier Sabahudin Muhic, who is on trial alongside him, should be acquitted of the unlawful killings of three Serb soldiers in the villages of Zalazje, Lolici and Kunjerac, near Bratunac, in 1992.

Oric’s defence lawyer, Lejla Covic, said the protected prosecution witness codenamed O-1 had been convicted several times, and that an arrest warrant was issued for him because he avoided appearing in court.

O-1 was mentioned in the indictment as an eyewitness to all the murders with which the defendants are charged.

But Covic said O-1 gave three diverging statements concerning his membership of the Bosnian Army.

She also said that none of the pieces of evidence presented at the trial confirm that Oric committed the murder of Serb soldier Slobodan Ilic.

“Not even O-1 said that, except for saying he saw Oric stabbing Ilic with a knife. After he fell down on his knees, Ilic was allegedly stabbed once again in his chest. Expert witness Rifat Kesetovic was unable to determine that these specific injuries could be the cause of Ilic’s death,” Covic said.

She added that witnesses confirmed that Ilic got killed in an exchange of fire.

She argued that Oric and Muhic’s responsibility for the murder of Serb soldier Milutin Milosevic had not been proved either.

“O-1 said that Oric fired a burst of bullets at Milosevic and Muhic then did the same. This would mean that his body contained around 15 bullets, as alleged by witness O-1 and the prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Covic said.

However, she added: “Expert witness Zoran Stankovic said, presenting his findings, that a pistol bullet was found in Milosevic’s body and it was probably the cause of his death. So, one bullet only.”

According to the prosecution, the third victim, Mitar Savic, died after being shot by Oric and then by Muhic.

But Covic argued that this was again based on incorrect evidence from witness O-1.

“Stojanka Savic, the wife of the man who was killed, said she heard from Savic’s comrades that he got killed in a trench and that he had one injury in the area of his mouth,” Covic said.

According to the charges, Oric was the commander of Bosnian Army territorial defence units in Srebrenica and Muhic a member of his forces.

The case against Oric has drawn criticism from Bosniaks who see him as a hero for his role in defending Srebrenica in the years before the 1995 massacres.

It has also been criticised by Serb war victims, who have claimed that the charges against Oric are too modest.

Oric’s lawyer has argued meanwhile that he has already been tried and acquitted by the UN-backed war crimes court in The Hague, so to try him again in Sarajevo was unjust.

The verdict will be handed down on October 6.

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