ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland on Thursday ordered the extradition to Bosnia of the wartime Muslim defender of Srebrenica, rejecting a rival request that he be handed over to Serbia to be tried for war crimes.
During the 1992-95 Bosnian war, Naser Oric was the commander of Muslim Bosniak forces in the Srebrenica region of Bosnia. It fell to Bosnian Serb soldiers in July 1995 and 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Serb forces.
Oric was arrested by Swiss authorities two weeks ago on a warrant issued last year by Serbia accusing him of killing Serbs in the Srebrenica area. He was acquitted in 2008 by a United Nations court in The Hague of war crimes against Serbs.
The arrest, and Serbia’s subsequent extradition request, angered Muslim Bosniaks and threatened to derail the planned attendance of Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic at next month’s 20th anniversary commemoration of the Srebrenica massacre, the worst mass killing on European soil since World War Two.
Organizers threatened to postpone the event.
Bosnia submitted its own extradition request, saying Oric faced a case in his home country also connected with killings in the Bosnian war.
The Swiss justice office said priority had been given to the Bosnian request.
“The decisive points here are the same criminal acts on which both requests are based were committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that Oric is a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” it said in a statement.
There was no immediate official reaction from Serbia.
In Bosnia, Munira Subasic, the head of an association of women who lost relatives in the massacre, told Reuters:
“This is the only fair decision. Oric should come to Bosnia and respond to the accusations before the Bosnian court is he is suspected of any charges. If he managed to clear himself of guilt in The Hague, I deeply believe he’ll be able to the same before the Bosnian judiciary.”
(Reporting by Katharina Bart in ZURICH and Maja Zuvela in SARAJEVO; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Andrew Roche)