SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Swiss authorities approved on Thursday the extradition of the wartime Bosnian commander of Srebrenica to his home country rather than to Serbia, on whose war crimes warrant he was arrested two weeks ago.
Naser Oric was arrested June 10 on a Serbian warrant alleging that he and other members of Bosnian Muslim forces attacked villages near Srebrenica between 1992 and 1995 to drive out Serb civilians with a campaign of intimidation, torture and murder.
Srebrenica is the town where Serbs massacred around 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in 1995 — the worst carnage in Europe since World War II.
Switzerland's Federal Office of Justice said Bosnia subsequently requested Oric's extradition "in order to resume ongoing criminal proceedings against him for war crimes against the civilian population."
A U.N. court has acquitted Oric of war crimes charges.
Oric, who had vowed to contest extradition to Serbia, agreed to be extradited to Bosnia.
The Bosniak member of the country's three-member presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, welcomed the decision by the Swiss judiciary.
"It was clear from the start that law and justice were on our side." he said. "Serbia should no longer attempt to treat its neighbors in this way. Its treatment of a hero of Srebrenica's defense was particularly unacceptable considering that it came just ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide."
Izetbegovic added that Oric's arrest at Serbia's request caused an "unnecessary loss of momentum" gained in the improvement of the relationship between Serbia and Bosnia.
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, a former ultranationalist who is now a pro-EU reformer, said the extradition of Oric to Bosnia is politically motivated and "leaves a bitter taste."
He said in Belgrade that Serbian war crimes prosecutors have proof that Oric committed war crimes against the Serbs.
"I have no illusion that the court proceedings against Oric will be continued" in Bosnia, Vucic said.