Strong police forces were deployed to protect the Court BiH building in Sarajevo where the Srebrenica warlords, Naser Oric (photo) and Sabahudin Muhic, were acquitted of charges for war crime against Serbs in several villages near this small Bosnian city, mostly known for the genocide committed by Serbs 1995.
Most of western countries and Bosniak media are silent about are the atrocities over more than 3 000 Serbs in the villages near Srebrenica and Bratunac, committed by Republic of BiH Army forces, under Oric command. He, as the witnesses said in several occasions, led the attacks on Serb villages and personally killed several civilians. Oric and Muhic were charged with killing three captured Serbs, Slobodan Ilic, Milutin Milosevic, and Mitar Savic in the villages of Zalazje, Lolici and Kunjerac in 1992. But, judging at first instance, the BiH Court acquitted them on all counts of the indictment for crimes against Serb.
Prosecutor Miroslav Janjic, during his final address to the Court, said that the Prosecution, on the basis of the evidence and testimonies of the witnesses, proved that the accused individuals committed the criminal offenses they were charged with. Oric’s defense attorney, Lejla Covic, stressed that the Prosecution has failed to prove anything, apart from the fact that it was an armed conflict between the R BH Army and the Republika Srpska Army. She suggested to the Court the acquittance of her defendant.
When the judges announced the verdict, the families of the victims, who attended the trial, demonstratively left the building of the BiH Court, disappointed with the fact that the warlords who ordered or killed their relatives were free to go.
The verdict triggered a bitter reactions in the RS. In fact, it came in the moment when the referendum in RS about trust in BiH Court and Prosecution Office is unlocked and voices for its implementation are stronger than ever. This referendum is supposed to be an argument of the opposition to show that ruling coalition in RS National Assembly decided to hold it just to show to the citizens that they care about status of the Serbs on that Court, but not with real intention to hold it. The decision was kept in RS Official Gazette for two years and wasn’t published until opposition recently provoked its publishing. It means that the decision is legal and that referendum will take a place in deadlines defined by law. However, it was expected that RS NA will suspend the decision on the referendum for the next session. But after the Oric and Muhic verdict, a referendum scenario is clearly possible.
In first reaction, RS president, Milorad Dodik, said that this verdict is unacceptable and called on Serbs working in BiH judicial institutions to leave their positions in show of protest. Dodik appealed to all Serb representatives in BiH institutions for unity, with regard to the Court of BiH and the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH.
“This verdict is unacceptable because it is promoted that it is normal for a Muslim to kill a Serb”, Dodik said after meeting with BiH Presidency Chairman Dragan Covic in Banja Luka.
He added that this verdict and the work of the Court of BiH and the BiH Prosecutor’s Office will be discussed with all the important people in Srpska.
Opposition Party of Democratic Progress RS leader, Branislav Borenovic, stated that the Court verdict shows that a “stage of total mistrust in BiH judicial institutions” has started.
“This judgement shows we are entering a stage of total mistrust in the institutions that are supposed to protect and spread the truth. It is shameful that a man who is guilty and responsible for the suffering of an enormous number of Serbs has been acquitted today”, Borenovic said.
He added that justice may be slow, perhaps not even attainable at this point, but that he is convinced that justice will have its legal and normal epilogue sooner or later.
Milomir Savcic, head of the RS Veterans Association, stated that the acquittal of Naser Oric issued by the Courtfor crimes against Serb prisoners in Srebrenica in 1992 is a collapse and twilight of justice in BiH and legalisation of crimes against the Serbs.
Savcic stressed that the judgement will help the legalisation of crimes against Serbs and signal the beginning of the “hunting season on Serbs” where many innocent people will be harmed by the Court and Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“This has really become dangerous. This is a collapse of justice, especially when it comes to Serb victims, as there have been many cases in which totally innocent people were convicted without a single piece of evidence or on the basis of absolutely false evidence the Court of BiH accepted as credible and pronounced draconian sentences”, he said.
The verdict was condemned by all RS based associations of families of victims of the last war in BiH, but welcomed by similar associations in Federation of BiH. After verdict, Oric said that “justice won” in this case. His attorney stated that such a verdict was expected since the beginning of the trial.
Kada Hotic, from the Association of the Mother of the Srebrenica enclave, also said that this was the victory of Justice.
“Oric was released in The Hague, he was released today here. In the war he was in Potocari, God allowed him to survive and talk about what happened. Now, let him live his life”, Hotic said.
Oric was on the trial in Hague Tribunal where he was first sentenced and then, in the second instance, acquitted for war crimes against Serbs. Following his release, Serbia had issued an international warrant and he was captured in Switzerland 2015, but authorities didn’t accept the demand of Serbia for extradition, and extradite him to be tried in BiH. Because of this case, relations between Serbia and BiH were disturbed. It is possible that the verdict will have a similar impact on regional relations in the following months.
In fact, it is possible that this verdict’s impact will last for years but not in a positive manner. The verdict is not final and many things, including the future relations in the state, depends on the second instance trial, which will bring a coclusion to this case./IBNA