Bosnia Seeks Wartime Army Commander’s Extradition from Turkey

23. March 2023.11:32
The Bosnian state court has asked Turkey for the extradition of Sakib Mahmuljin, wartime commander of the Bosnian Army’s Third Corps, after he failed to appear to serve his eight-year war crimes sentence.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

Sakib Mahmuljin. Photo: BIRN BiH

The Bosnian state court told BIRN that it has written to the Turkish authorities seeking the extradition of Sakib Mahmuljin, who was jailed for eight years for failing to stop Middle Eastern volunteer fighters mistreating and murdering captured Serb soldiers, medical staff and civilians, but failed to appear to start serving his sentence.

In November, the state court decided to ask Interpol to issue a ‘red notice’ calling on countries worldwide to arrest Mahmuljin. Four months later, Mahmuljin had still not reported to prison, so a formal request was sent to Turkey, where he is believed to be staying.

“Convict Sakib Mahmuljin failed to report to prison to serve his sentence. Following the issuance of an international arrest warrant, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina sent a letter rogatory to the Republic of Turkey, requesting extradition of convict Sakib Mahmuljin,” the court told BIRN.

Mahmuljin’s lawyer had claimed he was receiving medical treatment in Turkey, but the court said that “no medical documentation for the sentenced person has been submitted to the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

Mahmuljin was convicted of war crimes under a final verdict in April 2022. The court found that, in his capacity as commander of the Third Corps and superior officer to the El Mujahideen unit of Middle Eastern volunteer fighters, Mahmuljin failed to prevent the murders and inhumane treatment of prisoners of war, medical staff and civilians.

The court also found that Mahmuljin knew or had the reason to know that members of the El Mujahideen unit were preparing to commit the crimes.

According to the charges, members of the El Mujahideen unit, a detachment of fighters from Middle Eastern countries, killed at least 55 captured Bosnian Serb Army soldiers in the period from July to September 1995 and cut some of their heads off.

The unit operated as part of the Bosnian Army’s Third Corps, although Mahmuljin argued during the trial that he was not responsible for the crimes committed by the foreign fighters.

The news that he had not turned up to serve his sentence in December angered Bosnian Serb war victims’ associations.

“It defies all understanding that Bosnian judiciary expected Mahmuljin ‘to report to prison to serve his sentence’,” Goran Timotija, president of the Organisation of Families of Captured and Killed Soldiers and Missing Civilians of Trnovo, said at the time.

“Instead of pre-empting his flight and apprehending him in time to serve his sentence, they expected him to report to prison as if he was facing a summer vacation, not a jail term,” Timotija said.

The case highlighted a wider problem with war crimes convicts failing to turn up to serve their sentences and indictees who live outside the country being unavailable for trial.

The Bosnian judiciary currently has 172 active arrest warrants in war crimes cases.

Emina Dizdarević Tahmiščija

This post is also available in: Bosnian