BOSNIA URGED TO RETRY SERBIA FOR GENOCIDE IN BOSNIA
BACKROUND: What saved Serbia from being found guilty for direct involvement in (or at least as an accomplice to) Genocide in Bosnia?
|( PHOTO: Map of Serbia in its current borders.)|
The outcome of the Bosnian Genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was seriously affected by the failure to gain access to all confidential documents detailing minutes of meetings of the Serbian Supreme Defense Council.
The International Criminal Tribunal never received complete archive of Supreme Defense Council minutes from Serbia.
While some sessions have been made public only recently, many crucial “sessions” are still missing, take a look here.
According to the explanation given by Sir Geoffrey Nice, former prosecutor in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic:
“First, it is important to note that Serbia did not hand over to the Prosecution (OTP) the complete collection of SDC [Supreme Defence Council] records. For example, for the year 1995 the OTP received recordings for only about half of all the sessions held by SDC. Further, some of the SDC records were not handed over in their full stenographically recorded form but were produced as extended minutes. That means that they were shorter than steno-notes but longer than the regular minutes. The dates of the missing meetings or the meetings where this lesser form of record was provided, as I recall, were significant – namely dates leading up to, surrounding and in the aftermath of the Srebrenica massacre. The full records of those meetings need yet to be provided. At the same time, these documents, significant as they are, do not constitute a single body of evidence that will explain once and for all what happened and who was culpable. They do provide a much fuller context and provide some very valuable testimonials of things that were said by Milosevic and others. In their un-redacted form they would point all who are interested (not just governments and lawyers) to other documents that have never been provided and that might well be more candid than the words of those at the SD Council meetings who knew they were being recorded by a stenographer. Second, it should also be remembered that there are other protected document collections and individual documents which were, and still are, protected by direct agreements between Belgrade and the former OTP Prosecutor, i.e. they were not protected by the Trial Chamber. These documents are difficult now to identify but if and when Bosnia-Herzegovina decides to reopen the ICJ case it will be essential to require Serbia and/or the ICTY to produce all those documents for the ICJ.”
Bosnia Urged to Retry Serbia for Genocide in Bosnia
By Senka Kurt
Bosnia and Herzegovina should initiate a review of the genocide lawsuit against Serbia before the World Court as soon as possible, the former Hague tribunal prosecutor, Geoffrey Nice, said a few days ago.
Nice went further, saying a review of the lawsuit was an obligation to future generations, to ensure that others did not rewrite the country’s recent tragic history.
To recall, in 1993 Bosnia and Herzegovina filed a lawsuit against the former Yugoslav state, accusing the Belgrade authorities of committing genocide against Bosniaks and Croats in the country.
In February 2007, the International Court of Justice, ICJ, declared that during the 1992-5 war in Bosnia, genocide occurred in Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia, in July 1995, after Bosnian Serb forces overran the town and killed more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys.
But the Hague Court found Serbia not guilty of genocide. It neither commited genocide nor incited its commission, nor was it an accomplice, the ICJ said.
The court merely found that Serbia had failed to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide in Srebrenica. It had also failed to comply fully with the ICTY in arresting and transferring to The Hague those accused of committing the genocide.
A key problem in proving alleged Serbia’s involvement in the Srebrenica genocide was Bosnia’s inability to obtain transcripts of the telephone conversations that took place between the wartime commander of the Bosnian Serb army, Ratko Mladic, and former Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, during the fall of Srebrenica.
Belgrade submitted these transcripts to the ICTY but the latter did not give them to the ICJ under an agreement reached between the former ICTY chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and Belgrade.
At the time of the 2007 court ruling, there had been only two convictions for genocide in Bosnia.
Mladic and his one-time political supremo, Radovan Karadzic, were then still far from the ICTY’s Scheveningen jail, while Del Ponte had ensured a strictly confidential label was placed on documents that could indicate Serbia’s genocidal intent in Bosnia.
Circumstances have since changed and recently there have been growing calls to review the lawsuit against Serbia.
The last came from the Justice for Bosnia and Herzegovina Foundation, based in Sarajevo, which has offered to provide all the funds needed to finance the review of the lawsuit.
The Foundation’s president, Fadila Memisevic, says they already have raised more than half a million euros.
“That’s enough to start. Now we are working on raising money that will be needed to strengthen the expert team,” Memisevic said on Monday to Balkan Insight.
“As far as I am aware, [the state of] Bosnia doesn’t have to submit a request for review. That also can be done by an agent… and our Foundation has already given all the authority to an agent”, Memisevic added.
A former member of Bosnia’s wartime state presidency, Ejup Ganic, was arrested in London last year on a Serbian extradition warrant for alleged war crimes.
Following his release and return to Sarajevo, Ganic says he brought back with him an ICTY document that, in his words, “shows an international armed conflict took place between Serbia and Bosnia on Bosnian territory.”
“After persistent efforts, we got a document from the ICTY that shows the Serbian army was present in Bosnia during the war,” Ganic told Balkan Insight.
Ganic said he hoped this document might play an important role in leading to a different decision being brought by the ICJ.
“For the stability of the Balkans it is very important to put an end to the issue. We should not argue, but clarify: for Serbia, for Bosnia, for coming generations”, he concluded.
Meanwhile, the trials of Radovan Karadzic, arrested in Belgrade on 21 July 2008, and of Ratko Mladic, arrested on 26 May, 2011, may also shed shed vital new light on the nature of the 1992-5 war in Bosnia.
But Bosnia’s legal representative in the lawsuit against Serbia at the ICJ, Sakib Softic, cautions that it is early days to talk about the possibility of a judicial review.
“We still have not met all the requirements for the revision. We don’t have enough suppositions for a retrial,” Softic said, while conceding that that the former ICTY prosecutor, Geoffrey Nice, had made a «step forward».
According to ICJ rules, Bosnia can apply for a revision of the lawsuit and a retrial not less than ten years after the first court decision was made.
That deadline expires in 2017. The principal condition for a revision will then be provision of new evidence.