News 15 Jan 13

Serbia Gives Landmark Payout to Bosnian Detainee

For the first time, Belgrade will pay compensation to a Bosniak who was held in a Serbian prison camp after fleeing from the fall of Srebrenica in 1995.

Marija Ristic

In the landmark decision, a Belgrade court has awarded around 5,000 euros to Mujo Vatres, a Bosniak from the town of Zepa near Srebrenica who fled from Bosnia to Serbia in the summer of 1995.

Vatres was one of 800 people who escaped from the Srebrenica area when it fell under the control of former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic, who is currently on trial in the Hague for war crimes.

After the fleeing Bosniaks reached Serbia, they were arrested by Serbian police who detained them in two prison camps, Sljivovica and Mitrovo Polje.

Petar Zmak from the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre, which represented Vatres at the Serbian court, said he was the only one whose suffering had been legally recognised so far.

“For two other men, reparations were refused,” Zmak said.

“There are five reparation cases related to these events that are currently ongoing before the Serbian courts, meaning that there are 15 people for whom we request reparations,” Zmak told Balkan Insight.

The Humanitarian Law Centre in 2011 also filed criminal charges to the war crimes prosecutor’s office against 50 former members of the Serbian police, state security service and the army for committing war crimes against prisoners of war from July 1995 to April 1996.

They are accused of being responsible for the killings, torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners in the Sljivovica and Mitrovo Polje camps.

“The Serbian prosecutor for war crimes hasn’t responded to the charges yet,” said Zmak.

In July 1995, the town of Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by Bosnian Serb forces despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations.

After the town fell, more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed.

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