News 15 Jul 13

Bosnia and Serbia Start Joint War Crimes Probes

Bosnian and Serbian prosecutors met in Belgrade and agreed to work together to push forward 30 investigations into war crimes suspects believed to be hiding in Serbia.

Denis Dzidic

Five months after signing a protocol to cooperate on war crimes cases, prosecutors from Sarajevo and Belgrade have agreed to work together on investigations against 30 suspected war criminals who are believed to be living in Serbia and have therefore not been available for prosecution by the Bosnian authorities.

The agreement was reached when representatives of the Bosnian state prosecution met counterparts from the Serbian war crimes prosecutor’s office during a visit to Belgrade which concluded on Monday – the first concrete outcome of the cooperation protocol.

The Serbia war crimes prosecutor office promised to check whether the suspects are actually in Serbia, after which “further steps in their prosecution will be taken”.

Meanwhile, Bosnian prosecutors vowed to help their Serbia colleagues in the search for the remains of people who were killed after being abducted from a train in Strpci in Serbia during the war in 1993.

“The prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina has promised maximum assistance to colleagues in Serbia in finding and exhuming these mortal remains,” said the Bosnian prosecution in a statement.

It is believed that 19 people were abducted in Strpci and then taken to Bosnia, where they were killed.

The war crimes cooperation protocol is intended to address the issue of parallel investigations in the two countries and facilitate the mutual transfer of evidence between Bosnia and Serbia. It will also regulate trials of suspects in their country of origin for war crimes committed in the other.

The Bosnian state prosecution also announced that it would meet its Croatian counterparts next week in order to agree concrete cooperation over war crime investigations.

“This regional cooperation is a positive move in the fight against impunity,” the Bosnian prosecution’s statement said.

“The Bosnian prosecution hails these improvements which make sure that war criminals can no longer evade justice. Our cooperation is a positive move in light of regional countries’ European integration processes, in order to strengthen the rule of law process and reconciliation, and to achieve justice,” it said.

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