Serbia arrests suspects over 1995 Srebrenica massacre

Seven men accused of taking part in the slaughter of more than 1,000 Bosnian Muslims at a warehouse near Srebrenica.

18 Mar 2015 08:24 GMT |

More than 1,000 Muslim Bosniak men and boys were killed in a warehouse in the village of Kravica in July 1995 [AP]

Serbia has arrested seven suspects of the Srebrenica massacre, Associated Press news agency reported, in the country’s first attempt to bring to justice the men behind the killings.

Serbian police arrested the men accused of taking part in the slaughter of more than 1,000 Muslims at a warehouse on the outskirts of Srebrenica, a joint team of Serbian and Bosnian prosecutors told AP.

In total, more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed in the eastern Bosnian enclave by the Serbs in 1995 – Europe’s worst civilian slaughter since World War II and the only atrocity in Europe to be labeled genocide by the United Nations since World War II.

Serbia in the past has put on trial men who took a group of people away from Srebrenica to be killed.

And in 2011 it arrested Ratko Mladic – the warlord who masterminded the slaughter – and sent him to an international criminal court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Important move

But Wednesday’s arrests were Serbia’s first attempt to bring to justice men who did the actual killing in what became known as the Srebrenica massacre 20 years ago this July.

“It is important to stress that this is the first time that our prosecutor’s office is dealing with the mass killings of civilians and war prisoners in Srebrenica,” Bruno Vekaric, the lead Serb prosecutor in the case told The Associated Press.

He said Serbia was approaching a key moment in confronting its past.

“We have never dealt with a crime of such proportions,” said Vekaric, Serbia’s deputy War Crimes Prosecutor. “It is very important for Serbia to take a clear position toward Srebrenica through a court process.”

The biggest arrest in the sweep was Nedeljko Milidragovic, the commander dubbed “Nedjo the Butcher,” who went on to become a successful businessman in Serbia, the AP has learned.

The collaboration by prosecutors from former wartime enemies Serbia and Bosnia – supported by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague – is the most important case of judicial teamwork helping to heal the festering wounds of the war.

The arrests came after a December sweep by the same team of prosecutors of 15 suspects in a separate wartime atrocity: a massacre that followed an abduction from a Bosnian train.

Many Serbs still view as heroes their wartime leaders – including Mladic and Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, who are on trial at the UN war crimes tribunal – and believe they were victims of an elaborate Western plot.

That makes the current campaign to detain the triggermen deeply sensitive. Serbia’s conservative government is allowing the prosecutions to move forward in part because it’s eager to join the European Union.

Source: AP

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