Bosnia Acquits Srebrenica Commander Naser Oric at Retrial

30. November 2018.13:40
The Bosnian Army’s former commander in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, was acquitted on appeal at his retrial of killing three Serb prisoners of war in 1992. The state court in Sarajevo on Friday acquitted Naser Oric of killing three Serb prisoners of war in the Bratunac and Srebrenica areas of Bosnia during the war in 1992.

This post is also available in: Bosnian (Bosnian)

The prosecution had alleged that Oric, who was a commander of Bosnian Army territorial defence units, and Sabahudin Muhic, who was his subordinate, killed the Serb captives in the villages of Zalazje, Lolici and Kunjerac.

Muhic, a former Bosnian Army soldier, was also acquitted.

Explaining the verdict, Judge Tihomir Lukes said the court did not find the testimony given by a key prosecution witness to be reliable and credible.

Lukes said the prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina had not proved that Oric and Muhic killed prisoners of war Slobodan Ilic, Mitar Savic and Milutin Milosevic.

Speaking about the murder of prisoner Slobodan Ilic, Lukes said that the key protected witness, codenamed O-1, had changed his statements about decisive facts.

“The testimonies given by witness O-1 before the first- and second-instance chambers differed significantly. His testimonies are contradictory and not substantiated by other pieces of evidence,” the judge said.

On the murder of prisoner Milutin Milosevic, Lukes said the testimony given by O-1 was unreliable.

“It is readily apparent that the [witness’s] statements were contradictory and unreliable with regards to decisive facts… The statement given by witness O-1 before the appeals chamber differed from his testimony before the first-instance chamber,” he said.

Lukes also said that during the investigation, O-1 failed to mention the murder of prisoner Mitar Savic and did not provide valid reasons for not talking about it.

The defence also raised questions about whether O-1 could have been there at the time of the murder, introducing a piece of evidence that showed that O-1 was severely wounded on December 11, 1992, and the operation in Kunjarac, where Savic was killed, happened three days afterwards.

“The chamber has determined that he was realistically not able to participate in the operation in the village of Kunjarac and be a witness to the murder,” the judge said.

The retrial was held after the state court’s appeals chamber quashed the original acquittal of Oric and Muhic in June this year.

The original trial was highly controversial because Oric is seen as a hero by many Bosniaks for his role in defending Srebrenica in the years before the 1995 massacres, while some Serbs have claimed that the charges against him should have been more severe.

Before the original trial started, the defence asked the UN tribunal in The Hague to order a halt to the proceedings against Oric, arguing that he had already been tried for and acquitted of war crimes in Srebrenica by the Hague court and should not stand trial for the same crimes twice.

The Hague Tribunal rejected the request, with the judge saying that “the murder charges in the Bosnian indictment fundamentally differ from the murder charges in the Hague indictment with respect to the alleged victims and the nature, time and location of the alleged crime”.

Friday’s verdict is final and cannot be appealed.

Emina Dizdarević

This post is also available in: Bosnian (Bosnian)