Bosnia asks Swiss to hand over wartime defender of Srebrenica

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2015 10:13 AM

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnia asked Switzerland on Monday to hand over the wartime Muslim defender of Srebrenica and not extradite him to Serbia, in a row that threatens to overshadow the 20th anniversary of the massacre.

Naser Oric, a hero to many Bosnian Muslims, was arrested by Swiss police last week on a warrant issued in 2014 by Serbia accusing him of war crimes against Bosnian Serbs in the Srebrenica region during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

A Bosnian army commander at the time, Oric was in charge of organizing the defense of Srebrenica, a designated United Nations "safe area", from Bosnian Serb forces.

The town fell to the Bosnian Serbs in July 1995 and more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred in the days that followed. It was Europe's worst mass killing since World War Two.

Serbia said on Sunday it had filed an extradition request.

Bosnia's state prosecutor's office, in a statement on Monday, said it had filed its own request for Oric to be returned to Bosnia, arguing that his extradition to Serbia would jeopardize a separate case against him in Bosnia.

Oric stood trial at a U.N. court in The Hague for crimes against Bosnian Serbs and was acquitted of all charges in 2008.

The possibility of his extradition to Serbia has angered Muslim Bosniaks and may yet derail plans by Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic to attend a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia on July 11.

"We appeal to Bosnian politicians to end diplomatic relations with Serbia and demonstrate that we will not stand silent while innocent people who defended this country get arrested," said Munira Subasic of the Mothers of Srebrenica association.

(Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Matt Robinson and Andrew Roche)