News 18 Oct 17

Bosnian Serb War Criminals’ Families Demand Case Reviews

Relatives of Serbs convicted of war crimes by the Bosnian state court said that experts in the country’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska should review the verdicts, which they claim are biased.

Goran Obradovic
BIRN
Banja Luka
The Republika Srpska National Assembly. Photo: NSRS.

Families of the convicted Serbs said in an open letter on Tuesday to the National Assembly, the Republika Srpska entity’s parliament, that Bosnian Serb lawmakers should take action to secure reviews of the cases in which their relatives were convicted.

They asked the National Assembly to help establish a legal team that would offer expert assistance in war crime cases and review the existing verdicts.

They also said that the Republika Srpska entity’s courts should be enabled to take over all war crime cases from the state court to avoid anti-Serb bias and stop “the stigmatisation of the Serb people”.

“There are numerous pieces of evidence which we have submitted to the public and the court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, indicating that statements were coerced in certain cases, which directly affected the pronouncement of verdicts of conviction, and that expert reports were faked and testimonies were false,” their letter said.

The letter claimed that the acquittal this month of Naser Oric, the Bosnian Army’s former commander in Srebrenica, who was cleared of killing three Serb prisoners of war in 1992, demonstrated prejudice against Serbs.

“In the light of the Bosnian state court’s shameful verdict on Naser Oric, we request you, the representatives of the people of Republika Srpska, to react harshly in order to put an end to the stigmatisation and persecution of the Serb population and stand up for respect for the law,” the letter said.

Political leaders from Serbia and Republika Srpska have also strongly criticised the acquittal of Oric.

Milorad Dodik, the president of Republika Srpska, threatened to revive the idea of a referendum that will question the legitimacy of the state-level court and prosecution.

He accused the court of being biased because the judge in the Oric trial was a Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim).

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said the verdict was proof that Serbs’ lives were not considered to be “worth as much as other lives”.

But the president of the state court, Ranko Debevec, denied any institutional bias.

“The court of Bosnia and Herzegovina works professionally in accordance with evidence provided by the prosecution and not on the grounds of political and media speculation and pressures,” Debevec said.

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