COURTSIDE: Srebrenica Case

Srebrenica war crimes suspects appear before tribunal to answer charges in joint indictment.

COURTSIDE: Srebrenica Case

Srebrenica war crimes suspects appear before tribunal to answer charges in joint indictment.

Three men accused of taking part in the Srebrenica massacre appeared in court last week to enter a plea, following a decision by tribunal judges in January to join their indictments.

As in their first appearances before the judges last year, Vidoje Blagojevic, Dragan Obrenovic and Dragan Jokic pleaded not guilty to all counts of the new Srebrenica indictment.

The joint indictment charged Blagojevic, then commander of the Bosnian Serb army's Bratunac brigade, and Obrenovic, formerly chief of staff of the Zvornik brigade, with complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity and violation of the laws or customs of war, extermination, murder, persecution on political, racial or religious grounds and forcible transfer.

Dragan Jokic, chief of engineering in the Zvornik brigade at the time of

the massacre in July 1995, whose heavy machinery dug and relocated the mass graves in the Srebrenica area, is indicted on four counts,

and accused of extermination, murder and persecution.

Blagojevic, Obrenovic and Jokic, the indictment states, "were members of and knowingly participated in a joint criminal enterprise" with a common purpose of forcibly transferring more than 20,000 Muslim women and children from the Srebrenica enclave, and of capturing, summarily executing by firing squad and burying at least 7, 000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys, aged 16 to 60, from the Srebrenica enclave. The events occurred between July 12 and 19, 1995.

Relying on findings from the judgement passed on General Radislav

Krstic, found guilty last year of genocide and jailed for 46 years, the

indictment says the initial plan was to summarily execute more than 1,000 Muslim men and boys who had been separated from women and

children at the UN base in Potocari.

On July 12, the plan was expanded to include more than 6,000 men and boys who had been captured from the column of Bosnian Muslim men escaping the enclave.

Continuing the practice initiated by the indictments against Slobodan

Milosevic, the prosecution in the joint Srebrenica indictment identifies

other participants in the crime. In addition to the three men in the dock, three others have been charged.

Two are fugitives, namely General Ratko Mladic, commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, VRS, and Colonel Vinko Pandurevic, commander of the Zvornik brigade. General Krstic, commander of the VRS Drina corps, has already been sentenced and has appealed.

Interestingly, former Bosnian Serb president, Radovan Karadzic, accused of genocide in Srebrenica together with Mladic in November 1995, is not on this list.

Four other participants have been mentioned frequently during the Krstic trial, but their names are not on any public indictments for Srebrenica so far.

They are General Milenko Zivanovic, commander of the Drina corps before Krstic, and three VRS security officers: Colonel Ljubisa "Ljubo" Beara, chief of security of the main staff; Lieutenant Colonel Vujadin Popovic, chief of security of the Drina corps and Major Momir Nikolic, assistant commander for security and Intelligence of the Bratunac brigade.

If they are not included under sealed indictments, they are undoubtedly under investigation.

As the trial of the trio is unlikely to start before the end of the year,

they may yet be joined by Pandurevic or some of the four listed above. As for Karadzic and Mladic, if they reach The Hague this year, places have been reserved for them on the bench next to Momcilo Krajisnik and Biljana Plavsic for the joint Bosnia-Herzegovina genocide trial.

Mirko Klarin is IWPR senior editor at the war crimes tribunal and editor-in-chief of SENSE News Agency.

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