Srebrenica boss cleared of war crimes 

Srebrenica boss cleared of war crimes 

A former Bosnian-Muslim commander Naser Oric has been cleared of war crimes by a court in Sarajevo.

Oric and another officer, Sabahudin Muhic, were acquitted for killing three Bosnian-Serb prisoners near Srebrenica in 1992.

He was arrested in Switzerland in 2015 on a Serb warrant but extradited to his own country to face trial.

Bosnian-Serbs accused Oric and his men of killing about 3,000 of their people in the Srebrenica area during the war.

Many Bosnian-Muslims regard Oric as a hero for organising the defence of Srebrenica during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Milorad Dodik, the president of Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic, said Serbian lawyers should withdraw from the shared Bosnian legal system.

Dodik said the verdict would “revive the idea of holding a referendum on the state court”. A previous attempt to hold a referendum on the status of the state court, in 2015, was halted amid western pressure.

The justice minister of neighbouring Serbia, Nela Kuburovic, called the decision “shameful”.

Families of Bosnian-Serbs killed stormed out of the Sarajevo court in protest at its judgement.

“This is horrific, this is a scandal. Everybody expected that he will be punished. Is this a justice? I am speechless,” Radojka Filipovic from Bratunac near Srebrenica told Reuters. She said Oric’s forces killed at least six of her family members.

Bosnia’s three-man presidency chairman Dragan Covic, a Bosnian Croat, said anger over the case could be a setback for Bosnia.

In 2006, Oric was convicted by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague for failing to prevent his subordinates from killing and mistreating Bosnian-Serb prisoners of war in 1992 and 1993. He was immediately freed as he had already spent more than three years in custody.

His conviction was overturned on appeal in 2008.

During the war in the 1990s, the Bosnian-Serbs, helped by Serbia, tried to carve out a separate mini-state following the break up of Yugoslavia.

Millions of people fled their homes and more than 100,000 died during the war.

After the war, Bosnia was divided into two autonomous regions, the Bosnian-Serb Republic and the Bosniak-Croat Federation, linked by a feeble central government.

This week’s case related to crimes alleged to have occurred in the years before the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

In July 1995, Bosnian-Serb forces took control of Srebrenica, a designated United Nations safe area. They killed about 8,000 men and boys and buried them in mass graves.

Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2011. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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