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Austria court rejects Serbia extradition request for war crimes suspect

An Austrian court on Friday rejected Serbia's extradition request for former Bosnian general and suspected war criminal Jovan Divjak. The court ruled that Divjak likely would not receive a fair trial [AP report] if he were extradited, expressing concerns that Serb authorities would not have access to evidence or witness testimony of Bosnian authorities due to a lack of evidentiary laws between the nations. Austrian authorities arrested [JURIST report] Divjak in March under a 2008 international warrant issued by Serbian officials that accuses Divjak of war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian Civil War [JURIST news archive]. He was taken into custody at Vienna International Airport while traveling from Sarajevo to Italy, and he appeared before a local judge who placed him in extradition custody [Tanjug report, in Serbian]. Serbian officials believe that Divjak was involved in a May 1992 attack that killed up to 40 retreating soldiers [RFE/FL report] during the civil war. In a unique situation, Divjak, who is ethnically Serbian, left the Yugoslav army during the war and enlisted with the Bosnian forces. He has since gained popularity [AP report] in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) for his belief in a "multiethnic Bosnia" and his charity work for children. Divjak is now free to leave the country.

Some commentators predicted that Serbia would have difficulty extraditing Divjak from Austria, drawing parallels to the country's failed extradition [JURIST report] last year of former Bosnian president Ejup Ganic [Trial Watch profile] from the UK to stand trial for alleged war crimes in Serbia. Divjak's arrest is part of Serbian officials' ongoing effort to apprehend those responsible for the atrocities that occurred in the region during the 1992-95 civil war. On Monday, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that suspected Bosnian war criminal Aleksander Cvetkovic could be extradited [JURIST report] to Bosnia to stand trial for crimes related to the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre [JURIST news archive]. The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina [official website] confirmed the indictment [JURIST report] of former police officer Bozidar Kuvelja in March for his role in the 1995 massacre. In February, French authorities arrested Milorad Momic [JURIST report] under an international arrest warrant for his suspected involvement in the massacre. The war crimes court began trying four members of the 10th Sabotage Detachment [press release] in December for genocide for their actions at Branjevo Farm after indicting them [JURIST report] last August. Also in December, the war crimes court found four policemen guilty [JURIST report] of killing Muslim civilians during the Bosnian Civil War, handing them sentences ranging from 15 to 27 years in prison. The Prosecutors Office for BiH [official website] announced in November that Dragan Crnogorac was arrested [JURIST report] on suspicion for having committed genocide under Article 171 of the BiH criminal code [text, PDF].

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