Start of Bosnian Serb General’s Trial Postponed in Serbia

The start of the high-profile trial of Bosnian Serb Army Drina Corps commander Milenko Zivanovic, already the focus of controversy, was postponed after Bosnian prosecutors offered to transfer the case to Serbia instead of pursuing their own trial.

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Belgrade Higher Court. Photo: BIRN.

The first hearing in the trial of wartime Bosnian Serb Army Drina Corps commander Milenko Zivanovic, accused of crimes against Bosniaks from Srebrenica in 1995, was postponed by Belgrade Higher Court on Monday so Serbian officials can consider the offer of a formal transfer of the case from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Judge Mirjana Ilic said that last week Belgrade Higher Court was informed that “the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina has also filed an indictment [against Zivanovic] for crimes against humanity regarding the same events that are the subject of this indictment and that it is ready to submit a motion to transfer the case [to Serbia]”.

The case was already the focus of controversy because Zivanovic was indicted in both Bosnia and Serbia, almost simultaneously, for similar crimes in Srebrenica in 1995, raising questions about the prosecutors’ motives.

According to the Serbian indictment, Zivanovic “ordered the forced relocation of the Muslim-Bosniak civilian population from certain areas belonging to the [Bosnian Serb Army] Drina Corps’ area of responsibility and, with his orders and actions, participated in the forced relocation of the Muslim-Bosniak civilian population from the Srebrenica [UN-]protected zone”.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zivanovic was indicted for planning and directing the activities of Bosnian Serb Army Drina Corps units in a widespread and systematic attack on Bosniak civilians in the Srebrenica and Zepa areas in 1995. He is accused of being a participant in a joint criminal enterprise.

The Bosnian indictment was issued in mid-December 2021 and the Serbian charges were issued two weeks later.

Zivanovic was questioned twice in Serbia on Bosnia’s request, the last time in December 2021. The Bosnian prosecutors said they were not aware at that point that there was an ongoing case against Zivanovic in Serbia.

Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have an agreement that allows one country to take over criminal proceedings from the other.

In the Zivanovic case, the Bosnian prosecution has notified its Serbian counterpart that it needs to seek consent from 23 victims in the case before it can officially propose a takeover.

As a consequence, the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office has proposed that the start of the Zivanovic trial be postponed until a decision is made, and the initial hearing has been rescheduled for September.

Milica Stojanović

This post is also available in: Bosnian