News 05 Jan 17

Serbian Policemen’s Arrests Over Srebrenica Mission Probed

The Serbian Ombudsman’s office has launched an urgent probe of the arrests of two officers for passing official secrets to media about their covert and allegedly illegal assignment in Srebrenica in 2015.

BIRN Team
BIRN
Belgrade
Milan Dumanovic, one of the arrested police officers, in an interview with Al Jazeera Balkans. Photo: Printscreen.

Ombudsman Sasa Jankovic has launched an urgent probe after two police officers were detained on suspicion of disclosing official secrets by talking to media about their undercover assignment at the Srebrenica anniversary commemoration in 2015, which was attended by Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.

Police officers Mladen Trbovic and Milan Dumanovic were arrested on December 31 after they talked to Al Jazeera Balkans about their covert mission, which they believe was unlawful because Bosnia and Herzegovina was not told that they were operating at the ceremony in Srebrenica.

Serbian newspaper Danas reported on Thursday that representatives of the Ombudsman’s office spoke to the arrested police officers on January 1 and that Jankovic’s office will make its findings public after the probe is finished.

On January 2, an investigative judge ruled that the men would be remanded in custody for 30 days, while the case against them has been declared a state secret.

On January 4, their lawyer Vladimir Todoric asked for the removal of the prosecutor assigned to the case, Radmila Jovanovic, as he claimed her impartiality was compromised because she allegedly had a cigarette lighter branded with the logo of the ruling Progressive Party with her during a court hearing.

The two former members of the Serbian police’s Department for Observation and Documentation - a surveillance unit - gave an interview to Al Jazeera Balkans on October 11, saying they were among 18 police officers sent to Srebrenica on July 11, 2015 to secretly film the commemoration ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the massacres.

Serbian Prime Minister Vucic received an angry reception when he arrived at the ceremony, and stones and water bottles were thrown at him. Some Bosniaks believe Vucic should not have attended because he refuses to call the massacres genocide.

Trbovic and Dumanovic told Al Jazeera Balkans that they were given verbal orders and were sent to Bosnia without official identification, badges or weapons, but that they were given the same identification documents as security officers at the commemoration.

According to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s laws, members of foreign state security forces cannot under any circumstances carry out tasks on Bosnian territory without permission.

Bosnian security minister Dragan Mektic told Al Jazeera Balkans in October that apart from the officially-announced security details at the commemoration, the Bosnian authorities were not aware that any other security operatives were present.

“Except the security [detail] that was reported [to the Bosnian authorities], we had no other announcements, nor at that moment did we have any other information that someone was there except that security,” Mektic said.

After returning from Srebrenica, Dumanovic asked his supervisors for an explanation about why they were sent on a foreign assignment when official records stated that they were in Serbia at the time.

In summer 2016, Trbovic and Dumanovic filed criminal complaints for abuse of office against four senior police officials – Dejan Milenkovic, chief of the Special Investigative Methods Department, Goran Nesic, the head of the Department for Observation and Documentation, his deputy Tomislav Radovanovic, and Dijana Hrkalovic, secretary of the Criminal Police.

After the complaints were dismissed, the two men decided to talk about the case to the media.

Serbian police union Sloga said on January 1 that Trbovic was fired from the police few months ago after a disciplinary procedure, while Dumanovic was reassigned to the police department in the town of Pancevo.

Zeljko Veselinovic, the head of the union, told N1 TV that the arrest of two men sent the wrong message to police officers.

“With their detention, there is the fear that tomorrow every police officer that receives an order that is not in accordance with the law will have to obey it, or he will be detained or fired,” Veselinovic said on January 4.

However Vucic said last year that he had no problems with the Serbian police’s security operation in Srebrenica in July 2015.

“Are there police officers who did something wrong or did they just help to save my head, and now some are sad that I have survived, someone would love it if I had been killed?” Vucic said on October 13.

“I cannot understand the meaning [of this], I noticed that some people are trying to make I don’t know what out of this, but I don’t see the meaning - [did they] plan to kill Vucic and are now sorry it didn’t [happen]?” he asked.

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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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