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Srebrenica Trial Opens in Sarajevo

Defendant alleged to have conspired with Ratko Mladic and others to kill able-bodied Bosniak men after fall of Srebrenica.
By Merdijana Sadović
The trial of a former Bosnian Serb army officer charged in connection with the 1995 Srebrenica massacre began in Sarajevo this week - five months after his case was transferred from the Hague tribunal to the Bosnian war crimes court.

Milorad Trbic, a security officer with the Bosnian Serb Army, VRS, Zvornik brigade, was due to stand trial with several other senior Bosnian Serb military and police officers on charges related to the 1995 killings of some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in Srebrenica.

Trbic was originally indicted with Ljubisa Beara, Vujadin Popovic, Ljubomir Borovcanin, Vinko Pandurevic and Drago Nikolic - who are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide - as well as Radivoj Miletic and Milan Gvero, who are indicted for murder, persecutions, forcible transfer and deportation.

However, his indictment was severed from that of the others a month before the trial began last July.

The indictment against Trbic alleges that he entered an agreement with several others - including top war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic and General Radislav Krstic - to kill able-bodied Bosniak men from Srebrenica who had either surrendered or been captured after the fall of the enclave.

In April 2004, Krstic become the first person to be found guilty of aiding and abetting genocide in relation to Srebrenica.

Trbic is also accused of participating in an organised effort to conceal the killings by reburying bodies exhumed from mass graves.

He surrendered to the tribunal in April 2005 and has pleaded not guilty.

Sarajevo officials at first opposed Trbic’s transfer to the Bosnian court, saying they were concerned about his mental health and arguing that he might pose a risk to himself or others.

However, in a decision issued on April 27, tribunal judges dismissed these arguments and said Trbic would be sent to Bosnia because of his “relatively low” level of responsibility for the crimes committed in Srebrenica in 1995.

His trial at the Bosnian War Crimes Chamber in Sarajevo opened on November 8, with prosecutors outlining their case.

"We are here to prove one man's role in [the Srebrenica] tragedy,” said international prosecutor Kwai Hong Ip, in his opening statement this week.

The prosecution will try to prove that Trbic knew that systematic executions of Bosniak men and boys were underway, and that he carried out his tasks in order to ensure that the killings were performed efficiently.

The first prosecution witnesses are expected to give evidence on November 27.

Merdijana Sadovic is IWPR’s Hague programme manager.

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