News 13 Jul 17

Serbia’s First Srebrenica Trial Halted as Charges Dismissed

The charges in the trial of eight former Bosnian Serb policemen for the Srebrenica massacres were thrown out by the Belgrade appeals court because they were not filed by the correct prosecutor.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Belgrade Special Court, where war crimes trials are held. Photo: BIRN

The trial of eight former Bosnian Serb police officers charged with involvement in the massacre of Bosniaks in the village of Kravica near Srebrenica in July 1995 was stopped on Thursday after the Belgrade appeals court threw out the charges.

The court said that charges were dismissed because they were not filed by the authorised prosecutor, since the Serbian war crimes prosecutor’s position was vacant at the time, Beta news agency reported.

The charges were filed on January 21, 2016, when the previous war crimes prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic, had already retired, and his replacement had not yet been selected.

The new war crimes prosecutor, Snezana Stanojkovic, was apointed in May this year. She now has to file new charges, which have to be accepted by the court before a new trial is scheduled.

The eight former members of a Bosnian Serb special police unit went on trial in February this year, accused of organising and participating in the shooting of more than 1,300 Bosniak civilians in an agricultural warehouse in the village of Kravica near Srebrenica in July 1995.

Nedeljko Milidragovic, Aleksa Golijanin, Milivoje Batinica, Aleksandar Dacevic, Bora Miletic, Jovan Petrovic, Dragomir Parovic and Vidosav Vasic were accused of committing a war crime by killing Bosniak prisoners who were captured after Srebrenica fell to Bosnian Serb forces.

The killings in the warehouse in Kravica were among several massacres by Bosnian Serb forces after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995 that left some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys dead.

So far more than 1,300 civilians who were massacred in Kravica have been identified. Their bodies were found in several mass graves in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Bosnian prosecution previously launched genocide indictments against Milidragovic and Golijanin, but couldn’t arrest them because they have been living in Serbia since the war in Bosnia ended in 1995.

After Serbia and Bosnia signed a protocol on cooperation in war crimes in 2013, evidence from the Bosnian prosecution was transferred to Belgrade.

According to the charges filed by the Bosnian prosecution, Milidragovic, a former commander of a squad from the Bosnian Serb police special brigade’s Jahorina Training Centre, and Golijanin, a former deputy commander of a Jahorina Training Centre squad, committed genocide against Bosniaks from Srebrenica between July 10 and July 19, 1995.

However, the Serbian prosecution said it couldn’t prove the genocide charges laid by the Bosnian prosecutors and instead charged the men with committing a war crime.

Representatives of Srebrenica survivors in Bosnia and Herzegovina expressed anger about Thursday's decision by the Belgrade court.

The head of the Victims and Witnesses of Genocide association, Murat Tahirovic, told BIRN that the decision was a “farce” and showed the lack of willingness of the Serbian authorities to prosecute Srebrenica-related crimes.

“I wasn’t very surprised by this. We waited for months for the case to begin and then the court only looked at how it could postpone hearings,” claimed Tahirovic.

He said that his association will write to chief Hague Tribunal prosecutor Serge Brammertz to ask him to put pressure on Serbia to continue the case.

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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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