News 09 Oct 17

Serbs Express Outrage at Naser Oric Acquittal

Political leaders from Serbia and Republika Srpska strongly criticised the acquittal of the Bosnian Army’s former Srebrenica commander Naser Oric, who was cleared of killing Serb prisoners of war.

Admir Muslimovic, Filip Rudic
BIRN
Sarajevo, Belgrade
Naser Oric with supporters outside the court on Monday. Photo: BIRN.

Milorad Dodik, the president of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity, reacted angrily to the state court’s decision to acquit Naser Oric on Monday, threatening to revive the idea of a referendum that will question the legitimacy of the state-level court and prosecution.

“This is the time for us to speak about the referendum on the court and the [state-level] prosecution,” said Dodik.

Oric, who was a commander of Bosnian Army territorial defence units, was found not guilty of killing three Serb prisoners of war in villages in the Bratunac and Srebrenica area in 1992.

Dodik called on Serb staff to leave the state court and prosecution.

He also accused the court of being biased because the judge at the Oric trial was a Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim).

“It’s enough for a Muslim to judge a Muslim and you will be acquitted,” Dodik said.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said the verdict was proof that Serbs’ lives were not considered to be “worth as much as other lives”.

“No court will be able to hide the truth,” Vucic said.

However he also urged Bosnia’s Serb population to remain friends with the country’s Bosniaks and continue to build a future together.

The Croat member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, Dragan Covic, said the verdict was a “step backwards”.

“This takes us back and it is certain that this will cause negative rhetoric,” said Covic.

Bosnian Security Minister Dragan Mektic meanwhile accused the Republika Srpska leadership of using the acquittal for its own purposes.

“The Bosnian Serb authorities do not care about crimes. They only use victims for political points,” said Mektic.

He also accused the Bosnian prosecution of being incompetent in the Oric case.

“The prosecution was not committed to proving guilt,” he claimed.

The president of the state court, Ranko Debevec, denied any institutional bias.

“The court of Bosnia and Herzegovina works professionally in accordance with evidence provided by the prosecution and not on the grounds of political and media speculation and pressures,” Debevec said.

“Obviously the evidence offered by the state prosecution was insufficient for rendering a verdict of conviction,” he added.

Ruzica Jukic, the deputy head of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, which oversees the country’s judicial institutions, meanwhile condemned Republika Srpska leader Dodik’s comments.

“These are the pressures that we always see after verdicts like this. I believe no one should listen to such statements and calls and I believe that no prosecutors or judges will take Dodik’s call seriously,” said Jukic.

The prosecution has said it will contest the verdict.

“After we receive the written verdict, we will file an appeal,” said prosecution spokesperson Boris Grubesic.

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