Croatia leader visits site of wartime massacre of Muslims

Croatia's president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic talks to local imam Mahir Husic as she pays tribute to 116 victims of Bosnian Croat forces raid in 1993, in the village of Ahmici, central Bosnia, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. (AP)
Updated 18 January 2018
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Croatia leader visits site of wartime massacre of Muslims

SARAJEVO: Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic made an unexpected visit Thursday to the site of a massacre of Muslim civilians by Bosnian Croats during the country's 1990s war, an atrocity that led to several war crimes convictions.
Grabar-Kitarovic, on an official visit to Bosnia, paid her respects to 116 Muslim civilians, among whom 33 children and women, killed by Bosnian Croats in the village Ahmici in central Bosnia in April 1993.
Such gestures are still rare among leaders in the former Yugoslavia, torn apart by a series of bloody wars in the 1990s.
"I like to visit those sites of piety in silence, to bow to the victims and think about the past, but notably with idea that this past does not repeat ever again," Grabar-Kitarovic told reporters.
Journalists were not present during her visit to Ahmici.
In photos released by her office the Croatian president is seen laying wreaths at a monument for the victims and posing with an imam.
She also visited neighbouring Krizancevo Selo village, where some 90 Croat civilians and military personnel were killed by Muslim forces in December 1993.
The two villages are seen as symbols of the conflict between Bosnia's Croats and Muslims.
Although allies against ethnic Serbs during most of the war, Croats and Muslims also fought each other in 1993 and 1994.
Grabar-Kitarovic's predecessor Ivo Josipovic in 2010 also visited the two villlages and was the first Croatian leader to acknowledge the Ahmici massacre victims.
Local imam Mahir Husic said Grabar-Kitatovic's gesture was a "very important message which advocates peace and co-existence."
Bosnian Croats sentenced by the UN war crimes court over the Ahmici atrocity included Dario Kordic, vice-president of the self-declared Bosnian Croat state within Bosnia, who was sentenced to 25 years in jail.
In its final verdict in November, the UN court sentenced on appeals six former Bosnian Croat wartime leaders. One of them, Slobodan Praljak, committed suicide drinking poison in the courtroom.
Bosnia's 1992-1995 war claimed some 100,000 lives.


Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

Updated 30 min 39 sec ago
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Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

  • The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment
  • President Maithripala Sirisena says narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s president said on Wednesday that he has ordered the executions of four drug offenders who will be hanged in prison soon, amid alarm over drug-related crimes in this Indian Ocean island nation.
The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment.
President Maithripala Sirisena told a media discussion on Wednesday that he has signed the death warrants including the days of the executions and sent them to prison authorities.
He said narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts. According to Sirisena, 60 percent of 24,000 inmates have been jailed for drug-related offenses. Sri Lanka prisons are built to accommodate 11,000 people.
Sri Lanka last executed a prisoner in 1976. Currently, 1,299 prisoners are on death row, including 48 convicted of drug offenses.
Prison authorities are now in the process of recruiting two hangmen after two others quit without executing anyone.
At present, 26 people have been shortlisted for a two-day training, said Bandula Jayasinghe, an official at the Justice and Prison Reforms Ministry.
Drug trafficking is a capital offense in Sri Lanka, which authorities believe is used by peddlers as a transit hub.
Rights groups and foreign governments including the EU have previously criticized Sirisena’s suggestions to revive the death penalty, saying there is no perfect criminal justice system and the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated.
Sirisena, who visited the Philippines in January, praised President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs as “an example to the world.” Thousands of suspects, mostly urban poor, have been slain since Duterte took office in 2016. Rights groups have denounced what they say are extrajudicial killings. Police say most of the suspects were killed in encounters with officers.
Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist, a religion that advocates non-violence. Sirisena has previously said the country has had positive influences from all religions but tough law enforcement is necessary to curb crime and maintain order.
In April, police publicly destroyed 770 kilograms (1,695 pounds) of drugs seized in 2016 and 2017. Police have seized 731 kilograms (1,608 pounds) of heroin, 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine and 1,607 kilograms (3,535 pounds) of marijuana so far this year.
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in Sri Lanka, followed by heroin and cocaine. Drug-related arrests rose 2 percent in 2017 from the previous year to 81,156.