ATTORNEY NICK KAUFMAN, CVETKOVIC'S DEFENCE LAWYER RECOGNIZES SREBRENICA GENOCIDE
Aleksandar Cvetkovic (photos) - Serb war criminal who participated in the executions of Bosniaks during the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide - is being defended pro-bono by a British-born attorney Nick Kaufman. He worked for years as a prosecutor in Jerusalem and now he is defending clients accused of some of the most heinous crimes.
|Attorney Nick Kaufman|
Nick Kaufman claimed that only two people were convicted of the Srebrenica Genocide. In fact, at least 10 people were convicted for the genocide: Radislav Krstic, Vujadin Popovic, Ljubisa Beara, Drago Nikolic, Radomir Vukovic, Milorad Trbic, Aleksandar Radovanovic, Petar Mitrovic, Branislav Medan, Slobodan Jakovljevic, Brano Dzinic, Milenko Trifunovic, Milos Stupar, etc...
To Kaufman's credit, he may be a defence lawyer, but he does not appear to be genocide denier. In a recent interview given to Israeli Haaretz newspapers, Kaufman said:
"An evening before the hearing on the extension of custody, the Public Defender's Office got in touch and asked me to join the case. Srebrenica is undoubtedly one of the most notorious acts of mass extermination in post-Holocaust Europe. In the course of a few days, about 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were murdered [by members of the Serbian Army of Republika Srpska]. What set off the pursuit of Cvetkovic is old testimony of a member of his unit, who was tried in The Hague and sentenced to five years in prison. According to that testimony, it was said that Cvetkovic not only participated in the shooting but also complained that the pace of killing was too slow and wanted to switch to the use of a M84 machine gun. During that incident, over 1,000 people were murdered at the Branjevo [Military] Farm, between 10 A.M. and 3 P.M. [on one day.]"
"This is a rare legal event. It's the first time that someone suspected of genocide was arrested in Israel. Until now, Nazi criminals Ivan Demjanjuk and Adolf Eichmann were tried in Israel. But they weren't Israeli citizens, and they were captured abroad and brought to trial in Israel. This is a historic moment in Israeli law, a moment in which, for the first time, an extradition proceeding of an Israeli citizen for crimes of genocide has begun ... This is of tremendous significance."
"To tell the truth, I didn't even interpret the concept 'genocide,' which hovered in the district court, as something shocking. I didn't have time to look at my client and to ask myself questions of that kind: whether the man I'm representing was involved in the acts attributed to him by the Bosnian government. That's not something I usually do. Of course a judicial case that deals with genocide is not at all a simple matter, but the moment that you're dealing with numbers of that magnitude, everything loses meaning ... During those moments I was busy with the legal aspect, I asked myself only one thing: Can the prosecution prove its claims? In such a situation there's no emotion - everything is very professional."
Asked whether he feels that Cvetkovic is being prosecuted for "for the wrong reasons", Kaufman responded:
"Definitely. After all, he didn't flee to Israel, as they're trying to describe it. He even gave testimony on the matter a few years ago, of his own free will. He cooperated then; nobody tried to have him stand trial, in spite of the fact that others were tried. The request for extradition contains political elements that cannot be ignored. Today everyone agrees that genocide was committed in Srebrenica; the question that remains open is whether those who participated in the killing had the intention of committing genocide. Bosnia's policy is that anyone involved in the massacre should be tried for genocide. To this day only two commanders have been convicted of this charge. They were sentenced to life imprisonment, and their case is still being appealed. The soldier on whom the accusations against Cvetkovic are based was not convicted of genocide. That's why there's a whiff of discrimination in Cvetkovic's case. Because if a fellow member of his unit was convicted of murder and sentenced to five years in prison, why is Cvetkovic, who was in exactly the same unit and is suspected of behaving in a similar way, accused of involvement in genocide?"
"Yes, because in my opinion it will be very difficult for the country to prove such a harsh charge. In such a legal situation, it's not enough to prove elements of killing and murder. There is need for the additional component, which is extremely hard to prove: the intention to eradicate an ethnic group. I can kill a hundred Jews without intending to eradicate an ethnic group. Genocide with intent is true of Hitler, who admitted his intentions. Usually, the best way to prove the intention of eradicating an ethnic group is through the testimony of the suspect himself. In our case, Cvetkovic denies any involvement in the murder. He was the driver of a bus that transported soldiers, but he didn't participate in the shooting. Therefore, I ask myself, if we're talking about a rank-and-file soldier, not a big commander, isn't it going too far to attribute such charges to him?"
"Israel should have no problem extraditing people to the war crimes court in the former Yugoslavia. We are actually required to extradite those wanted by that court by dint of Article 2a of the Israeli Extradition Law, and that is a step that was taken with the consent of the Knesset. Israel's problem is with the ICC, which was established according to the Rome Statute in 2002. Israel doesn't recognize it, due to the fear that this specific court, which is run by an independent prosecutor, will act against it. The possibility that some country or other will act against Israeli citizens, on the basis of its universal authority to judge people who are not its citizens, for deeds that were carried out outside its borders is not at all connected to Cvetkovic's extradition proceeding."
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