Wednesday, November 28, 2007


THE HAGUE, The Netherlands (November 28,2007) - Families of genocide victims from the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica have cleared a legal hurdle in their lawsuit against the Netherlands and the United Nations, which allowed the genocidal Serbian aggressor to mass murder thousands of Bosnian civilians, their lawyers said.

A court in the Hague ruled the case could proceed, dismissing pleas by the Dutch prosecutors that it should be dropped after the United Nations invoked its legal immunity and said it would not take part.

In 1995 the genocidal Serbian aggressor's forces massacred 10,000 Bosnian civilians from Srebrenica, a Bosnian town declared a safe area during the 1992-1995 Serbian aggression against Bosnia and guarded by a Dutch army unit serving as part of a larger U.N. force in Bosnia.

Lawyer Marco Gerritsen, representing the genocide victims' families, said yesterday the court had supported their argument that the U.N. could not be granted automatic immunity.

"The U.N. has the duty to prevent genocide. An appeal to immunity in a case of genocide, as in the Srebrenica drama, is irreconcilable with the U.N.'s own objectives and its international obligations," he added in a statement.

The genocide victims' families launched the suit against the Netherlands and the U.N. in July, arguing the Dutch were to blame for the massacre because they refused crucial air support to their own troops defending the Bosnian town.

The Dutch U.N. soldiers abandoned the enclave instead to the genocidal Serbian aggressor who took away and mass murdered up to 10,000 Bosnian civilians who had relied on protection from the Dutch troops.

Former leaders of the Serbians living in Bosnia,Serbian war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, both wanted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague on genocide charges over Srebrenica, are still on the run.

Dismayed by the failure to bring to justice the two chief suspects, the genocide victims' families say they have turned to a Dutch court for recognition and redress for the tragedy.

The Dutch state has always said its troops were abandoned by the U.N. which gave them no air support, but public documents show a network of Dutch military officials within the U.N. blocked air support because they feared their soldiers could be hit by friendly fire, the genocide victims families' lawyers said.

"The Srebrenica women have got a fair chance to proceed against the United Nations," Bosnian lawyer Semir Guzin said.


BRUSSELS, Belgium (November 28,2007) - The International Community's High Representative and EU Special Representative in Bosnia, Miroslav Lajčák met with the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn in Brussels, and addressed the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament.

The European Parliament (EP) is the directly elected parliamentary body of the European Union (EU). Together with the Council of the European Union it forms the bicameral legislative branch of the European Union's institutions.

In his address to parliamentarians, Lajčák provided an assessment of the economic and political situation in Bosnia, and argued that the European integration process is the best way to reform the antiquated systems of the Bosnian administration and government.

“The European Union’s engagement with Bosnia, including its EUPM and EUFOR deployments, has been a success story, and in order to consolidate that success and build on it we must get the country’s political establishment to renew its focus on EU integration”, Lajčák said.

Lajcak also informed the European Parliament on his efforts to improve the functionality of the Bosnian state institutions.

Lajcak said that while the security situation in Bosnia remained stable, there has been little progress in trying to unite the country's ethnically divided police forces, a reform demanded by the European Union as a condition for closer ties.

In the late 1990s, Bosnia was one of the Balkan nations judged to be furthest along in efforts to join the EU. But it slid to rock bottom in 2007 because of a boycott by the political representatives of the Serbians living in Bosnia that has blocked EU-demanded reforms in the country.

Bosnia remains the only Southeastern European state without a pre-membership agreement with the European Union.

"For the time being there are no real prospects of restarting the process," Lajcak said. "If we do not act quickly and decisively, problems will spiral out of control. This is a lesson from the early '90s and one which is relevant for the present and for the future."

Bosnia has been overseen by an international administrator since the Dayton Peace Accords ended the 1992-1995 Serbian,Montenegrin and Croatian aggressions.Lajcak, who took over in June, is seeking to create a stable Bosnian Government for all Bosnian citizens.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (November 28,2007) - The Bosnian State Prosecutor has revised the section of the indictment against Serbian war criminal Jadranko Palija containing charges of war crimes against the Bosnian civilians.Some allegations have now been dismissed.

As the result of the revision, which was done during the hearing yesterday, the Bosnian State Prosecutor has removed part of clause 3 of the indictment, which charged Serbian war criminal Jadranko Palija with forcing the Bosnian civilians to perform hard labour, causing starvation, confiscating and pillaging property, mass destruction and encroaching of property which was unlawful, arbitrary and unjustified by military needs.

The Bosnian State Prosecutor considers Serbian war criminal Jadranko Palija responsible for war crimes against the Bosnian civilians committed during the 1992-1995 Serbian aggression against Bosnia.

The charges include attacks on the Bosnian civilians and settlements,which resulted in death, severe bodily injuries or severe deterioration of health of many of them, as well as unselective attacks, which caused injuries to the Bosnian civilians.

The first two clauses contained in the indictment charge Serbian war criminal Jadranko Palija with crimes against humanity. All criminal offences were allegedly committed on the territory of Sanski Most municipality in the period from 1992 to end 1995,during the Serbian aggression against Bosnia, when the indictee was member of the genocidal Serbian aggressor's forces.

The Bosnian State Prosecutor introduced the changes after the Trial Chamber of the Bosnian State Court had pointed out that some parts of the indictment were not defined in a clear way.

The Bosnian State Prosecutor Dzemila Begic explained that the Prosecution would express itself concerning all other remarks during its closing arguments.

The Prosecution completed its evidence presentation process by introducing the changes in the indictment and presenting additional pieces of material evidence. The defence has also finalised its evidence presentation process by examining witness Zeljko Bajak.

Bajak said he did not hear about the mass murder of the Bosnian civilians in Sanski Most in the period from 1992 to 1995. He also said that there was a check-point at the road leading out of the town, where he and Palija were on duty occasionally, as military policemen "who were exclusively in charge of soldiers, not civilians".

During his testimony, Bajak described Serbian war criminal Jadranko Palija as "a big man, somewhat chubby", but he said that he never saw him after the war and he was not sure if he would be able to recognise him.

During his testimony, the witness did not look at the indictee. However, on his way out he looked at him and greeted him, which was noticed by Chairwoman Minka Kreho.

Answering the chairwoman's questions, the witness said that there were no military actions in Sanski Most and that there was some shooting, "but only when people got drunk and celebrated". He also said that he never heard that any Bosnian civilians were murdered, that their houses were set to fire or that anyone was forced to escape from the town.

The Bosnian State Prosecutor is due to present its closing arguments on November 28. According to the current timetable, the defence should present its closing arguments on November 29.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (November 28,2007) - Protected prosecution witness,a Foca concentration camp survivor, stated before the Bosnian State Court yesterday to have been taken to the Foca concentration camp by the genocidal Serbian aggressor in April 1992,during the Serbian aggression against Bosnia, and to have been held in the Foca concentration camp for four months.

"Prisoners would be taken out for examinations and they never came back. This happened at night. They were taken away by the guards. After that, we would hear shooting and that was it. Execution. We called them 'the black nights'," the witness recalled.

Serbian war criminals Mitar Rasevic and Savo Todovic are charged, on the basis of individual and command responsibility, with having committed crimes against Bosnian civilians detained by the genocidal Serbian aggressor in the Foca concentration camp. The Bosnian State Prosecutor considers that Rasevic was guard commander, while Todovic was deputy concentration camp commander.

On August 31, 1992, the witness was taken by the Serbian aggressor, "together with more than 50" other Bosnian civilians, "for exchange in the direction of Montenegro".

"They first took us all out and then returned us to one room. A policeman holding a list in his hand came and called out half of the people in the room, mainly the young ones. The rest of us were taken to Montenegro by bus. I do not know what happened with the first group of people. Only those who took them away know that," the witness said.

The indictment alleges that, at the end of August 1992, Serbian war criminal Savo Todovic "personally saw off 55 prisoners". The indictment further alleges that, the following day, a group of 35 elderly and sick Bosnian civilians was taken by the gnocidal Serbian aggressor to Montenegro, while the remaining 20 "were taken in an unknown direction".

The Bosnian State Prosecutor announced that it would examine an additional witness, "who is not able to appear before the court at present". This witness' statement will refer to Serbian war criminal Savo Todovic.

Although the Prosecution proposed to examine two more witnesses, the Trial Chamber of the Bosnian State Court sustained the defence's objection and therefore refused the proposal, explaining that the testimonies of those witnesses "are not interesting and relevant at this stage".

As per a decision made by the Trial Chamber, Serbian war criminal Mitar Rasevic's defence team is expected to start presenting evidence at the next hearing, scheduled on December 4.

His Defence attorney Slavisa Prodanovic announced that he was planning to present evidence for three days and that he intended to begin the evidence presentation by examining the indictee.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (November 28,2007) - The trial of Serbian war criminals Zeljko Mejakic, Momcilo Gruban, Dusan Fustar and Dusko Knezevic charged with crimes committed in the Omarska and Keraterm concentration camps,during the 1992-1995 Serbian aggression against Bosnia, has been postponed because the Defence teams and the Bosnian State Prosecutor are not adequately prepared yet.

The case has been put on hold because the Defence attorneys have not submitted its proposed list of evidence to the Trial Chamber of the Bosnian State Court.

"We cannot continue with the main trial today, because we have been informed that the Prosecution has not arranged for translation of all transcripts which will be presented as material evidence. Also, the Defence teams have not provided us with the list of evidence they intend to present. Earlier on, the Bosnian State Court asked the Defence teams to formulate their evidence," the Trial Chamber Chairman Saban Maksumic said yesterday.

The Trial Chamber has asked the Defence teams to submit the list of their proposed material evidence and the list of witnesses they would like to examine by Tuesday, December 4 at the latest.

Serbian war criminals Zeljko Mejakic, Momcilo Gruban, Dusan Fustar and Dusko Knezevic are charged with having committed murder, beating, rape and torture of Bosnian and Croatian civilians detained by the genocidal Serbian aggressor in Omarska and Keraterm concentration camps in 1992.

The Bosnian State Prosecutor pointed out that the transcripts containing statements of all witnesses given before the Bosnian State Court - "except witness K010" - have been translated and submitted to the Defence.

"This morning, the Prosecution received the translation of the remaining statement. The document is being copied at the moment and we shall hand it over to the defence after the hearing. All other transcripts were mailed to the defence. We also sent them to the indictees in the detention units," said Kidd.

Attorney Vinko Kondic reiterated that the proposed list of evidence was submitted to the Bosnian State Court by Serbian war criminal Momcilo Gruban's defence team. The attorneys of the other three Serbian war criminals said that they would submit their lists at a later stage.

Serbian war criminal Dusko Knezevic's defence has halted the preparation of the evidence list because they still have not received all transcripts from the Bosnian State Prosecutor.

The Bosnian State Prosecutor started presenting its evidence against the four Serbian war criminals in February 2007. So far, it has examined more than 40 witnesses and presented more than 190 pieces of material evidence.

The trial is due to continue on Friday, November 30.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (November 28,2007) - The European Union Force in Bosnia (EUFOR) confirmed that the Rear Admiral Hans-Jochen Witthauer will complete his term as Commander of EUFOR on 4 December.

He will hand over command of EUFOR to General de Division Ignacio Martín Villalaín of the Spanish Army during a ceremony on the same day.

There will be opportunities for the press to talk to both the incoming and outgoing Commanders. EUFOR also expects that certain senior representatives of the European Union, German and Spanish Governments will also be present at various press conferences, EUFOR said.