Serbia Arrests 8 In Connection With 1995 Srebrenica Massacre

Serbia Arrests 8 In Connection With 1995 Srebrenica Massacre

6:27pm Mar 18, 2015

NPR's Melissa Block interviews the BBC's Guy De Launey about the arrests of eight men accused of taking part in the Srebrenica massacre. Some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men were killed there by Serbian forces in 1995.

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The ghosts of the Bosnian War have emerged again 20 years later. Serbian police have arrested eight men accused of taking part in the massacre at Srebrenica. Some 8,000 Bosnian-Muslim men and boys were slaughtered there in July of 1995. It's considered the worst atrocity in Europe since the Holocaust. And this will be the first trial in Serbia for mass killings in Srebrenica.

Guy De Launey is Belgrade correspondent with the BBC and he joins me now. Guy, tell us, who are the men who are arrested, and what specifically are they said to have done?

GUY DE LAUNEY: Officially, we haven't been given the names by the prosecutors in Serbia, only the initials. But they have confirmed that these men were all members of a special brigade of the Bosnian-Serb police at the time of the conflict. And they're accused specifically of rounding up about a thousand Bosniak-Muslim men and boys in July 1995 in Srebrenica and taking them to a warehouse on the outskirts of this small town in eastern Bosnia, forcing them in there and then firing grenades and rifle rounds into that warehouse. Any survivors they then took out, and they shot them as well.

BLOCK: One of the men arrested is allegedly the commander of this force, nicknamed Nedjo the Butcher. And evidently, he had become a successful businessman in Serbia after the war, which raises all kinds of questions about whether Serbian authorities really had any interest in tracking him down and bringing him to justice.

DE LAUNEY: Well, indeed, this man Nedjo, Nedeljko Milidragovic, was the commander of this special brigade of the Bosnian-Serb police, and he has become notorious figure. He actually faces genocide charges in Bosnia, which were filed a couple of years ago. But he hasn't gone to court there because he's been living in Serbia, and there's been no extradition treaty between the two countries. So in effect, he's been able to live safely and publicly in Serbia for all this time.

And for people who are concerned with seeing justice for the victims of the conflict of the 1990s, that's been rather distasteful. I was speaking to Natasa Kandic earlier today. She's the founder of the Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade and a long-time campaigner for justice for the victims of the conflict. And she said well, here was a man, as far as she was concerned, who'd gone to war for profit and he'd taken the money that he'd earned and started a business. To her this wasn't a matter of principle, just purely of money. And that's how she sees what Nedjo did in the war.

BLOCK: Does this strike you as a watershed moment for Serbia in confronting its past and the very dark chapters of the war?

DE LAUNEY: I think it is. It can hardly be overstated really how dramatic this cooperation is between the Bosnian and the Serbian war crimes courts - that you have people who here were on opposite sides during the conflict and now they're working together, that even though there's not an extradition treaty between the two, they're able to use evidence from one place to prosecute people in another country.

And I spoke to the prosecutor's office today in Serbia, and they were saying yes, we got all this information from our colleagues in Bosnia. We're also using information which was gathered by the tribunal at The Hague and that's what we've been using in preparation for bringing these charges. So Serbia's been improving its cooperation with its neighbors. It's also applied to join the European Union, of course, and that's one of the drivers for its need to show that it's adapting to these international norms.

BLOCK: Guy De Launey is Belgrade correspondent with the BBC. Guy, thanks so much.

DE LAUNEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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