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24 November 2015

Srebrenica Commander Oric’s War Crimes Case Delayed

Denis Dzidic BIRN BiH Sarajevo
Former Bosnian Army general Naser Oric’s trial will only begin after the UN court in The Hague decides whether the case should be dropped because he has already been acquitted of the charges.
Oric’s lawyer Lejla Covic told the Bosnian state court on Tuesday that his defence has asked the UN’s Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague to order Bosnia to halt war crimes proceedings against the former general because he has already been acquitted of the same charges.

Oric is accused of killing three Bosnian Serb prisoners of war in the villages of Zalazje, Lolici and Kunjerac in the Srebrenica region in 1992, when he was commander of Bosniak forces in the area.

But his lawyers insisted that the case against him in Bosnia relates to the same military activities that formed the basis of his trial at the Hague Tribunal.

The Hague Tribunal acquitted him of the charges in 2008, ruling that he did not have control over the Bosnian Army which committed the crimes.

His lawyers argue that he cannot stand trial for the same crimes twice.

They asked the Hague court earlier this month to appoint a panel of judges to order the Bosnian state court to “permanently stop proceedings against Naser Oric”.

Covic said that the defence will now respond to the concerns of Hague prosecutors about its request for the case to be halted, but it was unclear when the UN court will rule on the matter.

“There is a possibility the judge will make a decision after our response or he can call for a public hearing, so it is difficult to say when the final decision will be made,” she told the case status conference in Sarajevo on Tuesday.

Oric is seen as a hero by some Bosniaks for his role in combatting Bosnian Serb forces in the years before the 1995 Srebrenica massacres.

Some Bosniak leaders have described the case against him as politically motivated, but some Bosnian Serbs insist he should be charged with much more serious offences.

Another former Bosnian Army soldier, Sabahudin Muhic, is also awaiting trial alongside Oric.

Judge Saban Makusmic said that the date when the trial will start will only be set after another status conference is held on December 22, when he said he hoped that a decision will be made.

Prosecutor Miroslav Janjic told Tuesday’s status conference that he intends to call 30 witnesses once the trial opens. Only one will be a protected witness, he said.

He said the prosecution would not call a witness named Samir Avdic, who he claimed had sought to trade his testimony for favours.

“Oric’s defence gave us a recording of a phone call in which the witness asks [Oric] to [help him] to return to Bosnia from Serbia, where he claims he is being held against his will, and that in return he will testify for the defence,” said Janjic.

The UN’s Mechanism for International Tribunals is a judicial institution based in The Hague that was created to wrap up the remaining cases of the Yugoslavia and Rwanda war crimes tribunals.
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