Bosnia: Hague war crimes court acquits Srebrenica Muslim commander

The Hague, 3 July (AKI) – A United Nations appeals court on Thursday acquitted a wartime Bosnian Muslim commander Naser Oric of crimes against Serb civilians.

The UN's Hague-based war crimes court for the former Yugslavia cleared Oric. "The appeals chamber ... reverses Naser Oric's conviction (and) finds Oric not guilty," said judge Wolfgang Schomburg.

Oric, who was wartime commander in the eastern town of Srebrenica in 1992-93, had been charged under the “command responsibility” clause with the death of at least six Serb civilians, cruel treatment of prisoners and the destruction of 12 Serb villages in Srebrenica area.

The Hague tribunal sentenced him to two years in jail in June 2006 for having failed to prevent the crimes, but the appeals panel annulled the decision.

Explaining the appeals panel ruling, Schomburg conceded : “Grave crimes were committed against Serbs in two detention centers in Srebrenica between September 1992 and March 1993.

"But to prove that the crimes have taken place isn’t enough to sentence a concrete person for these crimes,” Schomburg said.

According to Serb sources, more than 3,000 Serbs were killed in the Srebrenica area by the forces under Oric’s command. But Srebrenica became a symbol of Muslim suffering when Bosnian Serb forces killed up to 8,000 Muslims after taking over the town in July 1995.         

After his acquittal, Oric told journalists in the Hague he was happy, because the verdict was proof that Muslim forces “committed no crimes in Srebrenica.”

But Bruno Vekaric, a spokesman for the special Serbian court for war crimes, said the Hague verdict “will not contribute to reconciliation in the region.”

 “There is no doubt that terrible crimes were committed against Serbs in that town and someone must be taken to account for these crimes,” Vekaric said.

Oric’s two-year sentence in 2006 provoked protests, shock and disbelief among Serbs in Bosnia and Serbia.

His acquittal on appeal is likely to trigger further Serb discontent.

The Hague tribunal has indicted 161 people, mostly Serbs, for crimes committed during the 1990s Balkan wars and more than fifty have been sentenced so far.

But several key suspects, including war time Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his general Ratko Mladic, who head the Hague tribunal's most wanted list, remain at large.


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