Serbia arrests seven men over 1995 Srebrenica massacre
Serbia has made its first arrests of people suspected of carrying out killings in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, Europe’s worst civilian slaughter since the second world war.
Serbian police arrested seven 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 the Associated Press.
Altogether, more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed in the eastern Bosnian enclave by the Serbs in 1995 — the only atrocity in Europe to be labeled genocide by the United Nations since the second world war.
The prosecutors said they are searching for more suspects in Serbia and in neighbouring countries.
Serbia in the past has put on trial men who took a group of prisoners away from Srebrenica to be killed. And in 2011 it arrested Ratko Mladić – the warlord who masterminded the slaughter – and sent him to an international criminal court in The Hague, Netherlands.
However, Wednesday’s arrests are Serbia’s first attempt to bring to justice men involved in 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 Vekarić, the lead Serb prosecutor in the case, told AP.
He said Serbia was approaching a key moment in confronting its past.
“We have never dealt with a crime of such proportions,” said Vekarić, 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 Milidragović, the commander dubbed “Nedjo the Butcher”, who went on to become a successful businessman in Serbia, AP has learned.
The collaboration by prosecutors from former wartime enemies Serbia and Bosnia — supported by the UN war crimes tribunal — is the most important case of judicial teamwork helping to heal the festering wounds of the war.
The arrests follow 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 Mladić and the Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadžić, 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 them deeply sensitive. Serbia’s conservative government is allowing the prosecutions to move forward in part because it’s eager to join the European Union.