Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Srebrenica Case Transferred to Bosnia

By Merdijana Sadovic (TU No 500, 04-May-07)
The Hague tribunal has transferred the case of a Bosnian Serb officer charged in connection with the 1995 Srebrenica massacre to Bosnia for trial.

Milorad Trbic, a security officer with the Bosnian Serb army’s Zvornik brigade, was due to stand trial with six other Bosnian Serb military and police officers indicted for their alleged role in the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

Trbic was originally indicted with Ljubisa Beara, Vujadin Popovic, Ljubomir Borovcanin, Vinko Pandurevic and Drago Nikolic - who face genocide and war crimes charges - as well as Radivoj Miletic and Milan Gvero, who are accused of blocking aid and supplies to Srebrenica.

But his indictment was severed from the others a month before the trial began in July last year.

Judges raised questions about his health and suggested there may be a conflict of interest between Trbic and his co-accused. He was apparently directly subordinate to Nikolic at the time relevant to the indictment.

In July 1995, Trbic was a security officer in the Zvornik brigade, which was involved in the Srebrenica massacre. According to the indictment, he "took part in organising the receipt, detention and murder of thousands of Bosnian Muslim men ... and personally executed in Orahovac Muslim men from Srebrenica”.

At a hearing on January 15, Trbic - who is charged with complicity in the Srebrenica genocide - said he was in good health and expressed his wish to be tried in Sarajevo.

However, a psychiatric examination ordered by judges last year revealed that his competence to stand trial was "questionable".

At the same hearing in January, Bosnia’s representatives opposed the tribunal’s intention to refer Trbic’s case there. Milana Popadic from the Bosnian justice ministry said the country lacked the facilities to accommodate detainees who pose a danger to themselves and others due to their mental state.

Popadic also said that it was inappropriate for the tribunal to refer cases involving genocide-related charges to the national court.

Prosecutors argued that Trbic’s level of responsibility is “not high enough to compel his being tried at the tribunal, for structural and practical reasons”. They claim the accused “did not actually have any kind of authority in the hierarchical structure [and] did not actually have the position of an officer”.

In their written decision issued on April 27, the judges said that “upon examining the alleged role and degree of authority of the accused, it is evident that his level of responsibility was relatively low”.

They added that while Trbic “did enjoy some limited authority in the Zvornik brigade, it is clear that he was certainly not among the most senior leaders suspected of being the most responsible for crimes within the jurisdiction of the tribunal”.

The tribunal is under pressure to finish all trials by 2008 and all appeals by 2010. To ease the workload, it sends lower ranking cases to the courts in the former Yugoslavia and keeps only the highest ranking accused.

Trbic should be transferred to Bosnia within 30 days.

Merdijana Sadovic is IWPR Hague project manager.

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