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Higher court in Belgrade. Photo: BIRN BiH
The trial in the case against seven former Bosnian Serb special policemen accused of involvement in the killing of some 1,300 Bosniaks from Srebrenica in an agricultural warehouse in the Bosnian village of Kravica in July 1995 was postponed again at Belgrade Higher Court on Tuesday.
The reason for the hearing’s postponement was because Rajko Jelusic, one of the defence lawyers, asked on Monday for prosecutor Bruno Vekaric and presiding judge Mirjana Ilic to be removed from the proceedings.
Ilic notified the participants in the case that Tuesday’s hearing could not go ahead because of this.
“Regarding the request for the exemption of Bruno Vekaric, the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office submitted the decision to the court before the hearing, and the [defence lawyer’s] request was rejected as inadmissible,” Ilic said.
“The decision of the president of the court has not yet been made on the request to disqualify the president of the trial chamber… The court is not able to continue with the procedure before the decision of the president of the court on the request for disqualification,” she added.
According to the indictment, seven members of the Republika Srpska Interior Ministry’s Special Police Brigade participated in killing the Bosniak captives from Srebrenica at the farm in Kravica.
The killings started on July 13, 1995 and continued throughout the following day.
The accused are Nedeljko Milidragovic, Aleksa Golijanin, Milivoje Batinica, Aleksandar Dacevic, Bora Miletic, Jovan Petrovic and Vidoslav Vasic. Dragomir Parovic, who was also indicted, was excused from the trial due to health problems.
Since the beginning of 2022, five hearings have been scheduled but none have been held.
From the start of 2020 onwards, 21 hearings were scheduled but only eight were held.
There were various reasons for the postponements, but in most of the cases it was because some of the defendants did not appear in court. Postponements also happened due to the illness of judges or lawyers’ absences.
Marina Kljajic from the Humanitarian Law Centre NGO, which is representing victims’ families in the trial, said that in the eight hearings that did take place since the start of 2020, the court “did what it could”.
“The court examined seven witnesses and two court experts, and at the same time reviewed the really extensive documentation,” Kljajic told BIRN.
However, she said she suspected that some of the postponements could be an attempt to artificially “prolong the proceedings”.
The killings in Kravica were among several massacres after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995 that left more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys dead.
This is the only Srebrenica-related case currently ongoing in Serbia. The trial of wartime Bosnian Serb Army Drina Corps commander Milenko Zivanovic should have started in May but was postponed.
The trial of the seven former Bosnian Serb special policemen began in 2016, and since then it has been repeatedly delayed due to the postponements of hearings.
Kljajic said that victims’ family members believe that the Serbian state, rather than the court, wants to avoid a final verdict being reached in the case.
“It seems to them that everything is taking a very long time, that it is being postponed too often, and that it is being done deliberately just so that a verdict will not be reached, that a final verdict will not be handed down for Srebrenica in Serbia,” she said.
The trial will continue after a decision is made about the defence lawyer’s objection to the presiding judge.