News 14 Nov 17

Landmark Srebrenica Trial Starts Over in Serbia

A Serbian court decided to restart a landmark Srebrenica war crimes trial from the beginning, instead of continuing where the process left off before it was temporarily halted by a higher court.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Belgrade Special Court. Photo: BIRN.

Belgrade Special Court decided on Tuesday to restart the trial for the massacre of Bosniaks from Srebrenica in the village of Kravica in 1995 from the beginning, rejecting the prosecution’s argument that the proceedings should continue where they left off when they were suspended in July this year.

Defence lawyers for eight former members of a Bosnian Serb special police unit who are accused of the crimes argued that previously, the trial was being improperly held because Serbia had no war crimes prosecutor in place at the time.

Deputy war crimes prosecutor Mioljub Vitorovic unsuccessfully tried to challenge the defence lawyers’ argument, saying it would lead to “further victimisation of witnesses and victims”.

“This only causes a stall in the process,” Vitorovic told the court.

But the judges decided in favour of the defence.

After these arguments, the deputy prosecutor again read all the charges against the eight former members of a Bosnian Serb special police unit who stand 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 are accused of committing a war crime by killing Bosniak prisoners who were captured after Srebrenica fell to Bosnian Serb forces.

Their trial opened in February this year but the original charges were dismissed in July because they were not filed by the authorised prosecutor, as the Serbian war crimes prosecutor’s position was vacant at the time.

The new war crimes prosecutor, Snezana Stanojkovic, then filed a motion to continue the trial, but this was rejected by the Higher Court.

The Higher Court, ruling however, was overturned by the Appeals Court in October, allowing the trial to continue.

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.

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.

Serbia does not accept that the Srebrenica massacres constituted genocide, despite rulings by international courts.

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