Bosnia to Rule in Srebrenica Genocide Trial

29 July 2008 Sarajevo _ Bosnia’s State Court is set to announce its verdict against eleven men accused of genocide in Srebrenica, in what is being seen as a test case for the country’s justice system.

It is the first time a verdict for genocide could be handed down in Bosnia, in what is also the country’s biggest genocide trial.

The indictment charges Milos Stupar, former commander of the Second Special Police Squad, Milenko Trifunovic, Petar Mitrovic, Brano Dzinic, Aleksandar Radovanovic, Slobodan Jakovljevic, Miladin Stevanovic, Velibor Maksimovic, Dragisa Zivanovic and Branislav Medan, all former members of that Unit, and Milovan Matic, former member of the Bosnian Serb Army, with having allegedly participated in the capture of several thousand Bosniaks (also known as Bosnian Muslims) in Srebrenica, and in taking 1,000 men to the Agricultural Cooperative warehouse in Kravica, where they were shot on the evening of July 13, 1995.

The trial against the eleven indictees began in May 2006. More then 100 witnesses and ten court experts have been examined during the course of regular and additional evidence presentation by both parties.

One of the witnesses was a Bosniak who survived the incident because he was shielded by the bodies of those who were killed in Kravica.

He remembered that the storage shed was completely full when prisoners were brought in, and how one of them complained to a soldier that he could not stand anywhere because the storage shed was full of people.

“The soldier pushed him with his foot. Then a burst of shots was heard, and the shooting started,” the witness said.

“I closed my eyes and waited to be killed. All the men fell. I lay down. There was blood everywhere.” Shooting and the explosions of bombs and grenade launchers lasted for around one hour, he said.

When the shooting quieted down, S1 continued lying on the floor among dead bodies, listening to yelling and laughter coming from outside.

“There was blood everywhere. I laid down on one of the dead men and put two dead bodies over me. I stayed like that for 24 hours,” S1 said.

In its closing arguments, the State Prosecution has called on the Trial Chamber to announce the indictees guilty and sentence each of them to 45 years’ imprisonment, which is the maximum imprisonment sentence prescribed by the Criminal Code of Bosnia ad Herzegovina.

“The Court should not hesitate to call the crime by its real name. What happened in Srebrenica was genocide. If a murder of 1,000 people and forcible resettlement of tens thousands of civilians, and a systematic approach to the commitment of those crimes, was not genocide, why do we then have all these theories, discussions and thesis that even a murder of one man can be considered as genocide?” Prosecutor Ibro Bulic said, presenting his closing arguments.

The Defence teams of the eleven indictees asked the Court to acquit the accused of all counts contained in the indictment, saying that the Prosecution had not managed to prove the allegations contained in the indictment, or that the genocide was committed in Srebrenica.

“The Defence does not deny that a crime did happen in Kravica but it denies that genocide was committed,” Stojan Vasic, one of the attorneys said.

“We can hardly say that there was an intention to destroy the entire Bosniak population. We could have said that genocide had been committed in Srebrenica had the women and children been killed as well,” attorney Bosko Cegar argued.

On July 12, 1995 the indictees allegedly guarded and controlled the road used by the buses to transport the civilians who were deported from Srebrenica.

The indictment alleges that several thousands of captured men were held in a meadow in Sandici and in its vicinity, in Bratunac municipality, before being transported to various locations, including the Agricultural Cooperative in Kravica, and killed.

Read more extensive coverage on the Kravica trial at BIRN’s Justice Report website here:

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