Former Srebrenica commander Oric went on trial in Sarajevo for war crimes, accused of being responsible for killing three Serbs in 1992 – a case which has angered the country’s Bosniaks.
Oric’s trial opened at the state court in the Bosnian capital on Tuesday with the reading of the indictment accusing him and former Bosnian Army soldier Sabahudin Muhic of killing three Serb captives in the villages of Zalazje, Lolici and Kunjerac in 1992.
“The victims were prisoners of war. They surrendered their weapons and were under the control of the Srebrenica Territorial Defence forces. Oric and Muhic knew they were violating the Geneva conventions, because the prisoners were at their mercy,” said prosecutor Miroslav Janjic.
According to the charges, Oric killed one of the prisoners of war by stabbing him in the neck after hitting him in the leg. He also hit another prisoner who was then killed by Muhic, while the third prisoner was also killed by the soldier, the prosecution alleges.
The trial started despite objections by Oric’s defence which claimed that he had already been tried for and acquitted of the same crimes by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
But the UN court has said the indictment filed in Bosnia and Herzegovina was significantly different from the charges of which he was acquitted at the Hague Tribunal.
It said the Hague Tribunal acquitted Oric of command responsibility for the murder of one person at the police station in Srebrenica and six more people in the local municipality building.
Oric’s defence claimed that the Bosnian investigation only lasted a month, which was strange for much lesser crimes, let alone a war crimes case.
“The prosecution listed five witnesses in their decision to open the investigation. None of them mentioned Oric, or brought him into connection with the crime. So how could the prosecution have decided to open the investigation in the first place?” asked Oric’s lawyer Lejla Covic.
Covic said it was also suspicious that the testimony of a key protected witness codenamed O1 surfaced nine days after the investigation was opened.
“This seems like the prosecution was psychic, that they knew what would happen,” she said, adding that 01 hadchanged his testimony several times, so the defence will be able to prove he is not a reliable witness.
The prosecution asked for measures which forbid Oric from travelling outside Bosnia’s Federation entity to remain in place, but the defence objected.
“The trial has started, so you have control over Oric’s movement. He is attending these hearings. There is no need for the measures,” said Covic.
Oric also addressed the court and said that he has not threatened any witnesses and cannot see a reason for further limits on his movement.
Prosecutor Janjic argued that these were the most lenient measures and they should remain in place.
Oric is also wanted in Serbia for war crimes. In June last year he was arrested on the French-Swiss border at the request of the Serbian prosecution, which wanted to charge him with crimes in Srebrenica. But he was ultimately extradited to Bosnia and Herzegovina, not to Serbia.
The former Srebrenica commander’s indictment in Bosnia and Herzegovina drew criticism from both Serb victims of the war – who claimed the charges were too modest – and from Bosniak victims of Serb crimes.
Before the hearing started on Tuesday, a group of Srebrenica genocide survivors gathered in front of the court building to support Oric, while another group of some 20 Bosnian Serb war victims came to see the trial start.
Munira Subasic, the president of the Mothers of the Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves association told media that Oric was a hero because of his role in combatting Serb forces in the years before the 1995 Srebrenica massacres.
“We will not allow these charges, which are based on fake witnesses,” said Subasic.
But Vinko Lale, the secretary of the Union of Former Camp Detainees of the Birac region, said that he hopes that Oric’s charges will be expanded.
“He committed other crimes against Serbs in the Srebrenica and Bratunac regions and I hope that Oric’s accomplices will be caught,” he said.
The first witnesses at the trial are scheduled to testify on February 16.
Source: Balkan Insight