news 22 Jul 15

Bosnia Detains Four Over Vucic Attack at Srebrenica

Police temporarily detained four people suspected of involvement in the attack on Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic during the 20th anniversary commemoration of the Srebrenica massacres.

Srecko Latal
BIRN
Sarajevo

 

Vucic fleeing from the attack in Srebrenica.

Photo: Beta/Borut Zivulovic/EV.

 

Bosnia’s State Investigative and Protection Agency, which had been under pressure to make arrests over the high-profile incident at the July 11 commemoration, held the suspects for questioning for several hours on Tuesday before releasing them, a Bosnian government official told BIRN.

All four suspects were arrested in the northern Bosnian town of Tesanj after being identified through photographs from the Srebrenica event and tip-offs from the public, according to police and government officials.

One of the four, Almir Merdic, had already been identified in the media last week but said he had nothing to do with the attack.

“I do not know what will be happening now. They [the police] told me nothing. They returned my [identification] documents. They only asked me to tell them what I saw that day in Srebrenica,” Merdic told local media after his release on Tuesday afternoon.

Vucic was slightly hurt after being pelted with stones and plastic bottles and had to flee the event. The incident erupted amid heightened political tensions and warnings from Serbia that former wartime nationalist Vucic, who denies the 1995 massacres were genocide, could be in danger if he attended the commemoration.

The attack strained the already fragile relations between the two neighbouring countries. In an attempt to calm tensions, the members of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency are visiting Serbia on Wednesday.

A report on the incident, which was discussed by an independent parliamentary commission on Tuesday, has revealed a series of weaknesses and flaws in the organisation of the Srebrenica commemoration, the government official told BIRN.

The official said that the biggest flaw appeared to be the fact that – unlike at Srebrenica anniversary commemoration ceremonies in previous years – domestic, regional and international dignitaries were paraded through the entire memorial complex to a newly-built gallery on the hill overlooking the venue, but without making sure that the route was properly secured by police.

The official said that the complicated legal framework related to security provisions in and around the Srebrenica memorial centre contributed to almost complete organisational collapse during the event.

As Srebrenica is in Bosnia’s Serb-led entity Republika Srpska, its police force is in charge of providing security in the town and the surrounding area. But a law imposed in 2007 by Bosnia’s top international official, the High Representative, said that the State Investigative and Protection Agency rather than the entity’s police should be responsible for security within the Srebrenica memorial complex.

However, a recent Republika Srpska law requires organisers of all public events to provide their own security, which forced the Srebrenica organising committee to hire a private security company to ensure order within the complex.

On the day of the commemoration, coordination among all these different security bodies was made even more difficult by the breakdown of almost all phone and radio communications.

They were also unable to handle the 70,000 people and some 700 local, regional and international dignitaries who came to attend the ceremony in such a small space at the memorial complex and in the surrounding area, the official said.

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Background

Srebrenica: Genocide Reconstructed

In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.

Ratko Mladic: The Force Behind the Srebrenica Killings

The Bosnian Serb commander’s role in the genocide committed in Srebrenica is described in detail in many indictments and verdicts pronounced before local and international judicial institutions.

The Indictment Against Ratko Mladic

Indictments in 1995 and 2000, further amended in 2002 and 2010, charge the former commander of the Republika Srpska Army with genocide and other crimes.

Ratko Mladic: From Promising Officer to Bloodstained Warlord

When Mladic ordered his army to bomb the people of Sarajevo until they ‘go insane’, he revealed the murderous intentions that would culminate in the Srebrenica massacre.

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