Serbian suspects appear at Srebrenica massacre trial

Bosnian Muslim women, survivors of July 1995 massacre in Srebrenica react as they watch live broadcast of the verdict reading in the trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, in Tuzla, in this March 24, 2016 file photo. (AFP)
Updated 13 December 2016

Serbian suspects appear at Srebrenica massacre trial

BELGRADE: Eight Serbian men appeared Monday before a Belgrade court over their alleged role in the Srebrenica massacre, Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II, in the first-ever such case to be handled by the country’s judiciary.
The suspects’ defense attorneys cited procedural issues, demanding notably the replacement of judges, and opening of the trial was postponed to Tuesday to review their request.
The bloodbath the eight suspects are accused of unfolded over just one day in a warehouse in the town of Kravica.
It was part of a string of mass killings in the east Bosnian enclave by Bosnian Serb forces commanded by General Ratko Mladic, who is currently on trial in The Hague.
It is the first time Serbia is trying suspects involved in the Srebrenica massacre.
Carried out by ethnic Serbs, the episode has long been a highly sensitive matter in Serbia, which was gripped by virulent nationalism and demands to protect Serbian minorities as Yugoslavia broke up.
If found guilty, the suspects face up to 20 years in jail.
“This is a very important case as Serbia needs to face its past,” Serbia’s former war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said.
“Without that there can be no catharsis, no reconciliation in the region.”
The Srebrenica massacre was ruled as genocide by two international courts although Serbia has persistently rejected the definition.
But the victims’ relatives do not expect much from the trial.
“I don’t expect anything from this trial,” Munira Subasic, head of the Srebrenica Mothers association, told reporters on Monday in front of the Belgrade court before attending the hearing.
Subasic lost 22 family members in the massacre, including her son.
“My son was killed in that warehouse, where I found two bones and buried them.
“I will never forget that, will not forgive,” she said and added the suspects should have been tried at the site of the crime.
The eight are suspected members of the Bosnian Serb “Jahorina” special police unit, a dozen of whose members have already been sentenced in Bosnia over the Kravica killings. All the defendants obtained Serbian citizenship after the war.
One of those charged was the unit’s commander, 58-year-old Nedeljko Milidragovic, also called “Nedjo the Butcher.”
He is accused of having ordered the executions and saying, “nobody should get out alive,” according to the indictment.
After the war, Milidragovic became a successful businessman in Serbia, local media reported at the time of his arrest.
Some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed and their bodies dumped in mass graves during the massacre, which became a symbol of the horror of the 1990s Balkan wars that accompanied Yugoslavia’s collapse.
The Kravica victims were caught as they fled through a forest.
Bosnian Serb police and the military packed the prisoners into the warehouse and began shooting and throwing grenades, according to the prosecutor and previous court hearings.
The victims’ remains have been found in at least eight mass graves, according to the prosecutor.
Previous prosecutions linked to the Srebrenica massacre have been held by the Bosnian authorities and The Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war between its Muslims, Croats and Serbs claimed some 100,000 lives.
Mladic awaits the ICTY’s verdict over his role in war crimes committed during the Bosnian war, including for Srebrenica.
In closing arguments last week, ICTY prosecutors called on the judges to jail Mladic for life, while his defense said he should be acquitted as he had denied all the charges during the four-year trial.
Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic was sentenced by the ICTY in March to a 40-year jail term, being found guilty of various war crimes committed during the conflict, including Srebrenica.
At least four more people have been under investigation for the Srebrenica massacre, according to Vukcevic, who led the investigation and brought charges against the eight.


South Sudan opposition leader returns to meet with president

Updated 19 October 2019

South Sudan opposition leader returns to meet with president

  • Riek Machar last met face-to-face with President Salva Kiir in September, when they discussed outstanding issues in a fragile peace deal
  • The civil war killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions

JUBA, South Sudan: South Sudan opposition leader Riek Machar returned to the country Saturday to meet with President Salva Kiir less than a month before their deadline to form a unity government after a five-year civil war.
Machar last met face-to-face with Kiir in September, when they discussed outstanding issues in a fragile peace deal. His two-day visit includes a meeting with the US ambassador to the United Nations, who arrives Sunday with a UN Security Council delegation.
The delegation is expected to encourage progress in the peace deal signed a year ago but fraught with delays.
Both Kiir and Machar will meet with the delegation Sunday, government spokesman Michael Makuei said.
The opposition has said Machar won’t return to South Sudan for good to form the government by the Nov. 12 deadline unless security arrangements are in place.
The US has said it will reevaluate its relationship with South Sudan if that deadline is missed.
The civil war killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions.
Before Machar’s return a unified army of 41,500 opposition and government soldiers needs to be ready along with a 3,000-person VIP protection force.
But so far there are only 1,000 unified soldiers and security arrangements won’t meet the deadline, deputy opposition spokesman Manawa Peter Gatkuoth said.
The previous Machar-Kiir meeting focused on speeding up the screening and reunification of forces, but parties left the talks with differing views.
Deputy chairman for the opposition Henry Odwar called the meeting “lukewarm,” while Makuei called it “highly successful” and said everything was on track for next month’s deadline.