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Bosnian Muslims on trial for war crimes against Serbs

The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina [official website] on Thursday began the trial [press release] of eight Bosnian Muslims charged with abuse and torture of Serbian prisoners during the Bosnian Civil War [JURIST archive]. The prosecution claims that Serbian civilians were unlawfully detained and subjected to inhumane treatment [Reuters report] while being held in three detention camps during the 43-month siege of the Sarajevo suburb of Hadzici by Bosnian Serb forces on the surrounding hilltops. Along with six detention camp guards, the defendants include Mustafa Djelilovic, the former head of the Hadzici local assembly, and former police chief Fadil Covic, both of whom allegedly failed to provide a minimal living standard for prisoners, although they were aware of the dire conditions in detention camps that led to the deaths of four people. It is alleged that all of the defendants knew about the inhumane conditions and did nothing to improve them. The case is one of the few brought against Bosnian Muslims, who received much of the abuse and made up the vast majority of the 100,000 people killed during the war. Approximately 11,500 people died in the siege of Sarajevo alone, as Bosnian Serb forces cleansed large parts of the country of non-Serbs after Muslims and Croats voted for independence from socialist Yugoslavia.

There have been many recent developments in the trials of accused war criminals in the Bosnian Civil war. In February the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website; JURIST news archive] sentenced Milan Tupajic to two months in prison [JURIST report] on two counts of contempt. Tupajic, the former president of the municipality of Sokolac, Bosnia and Herzegovina, was held in contempt for refusing to testify against Radovan Karadzic [ICTY case summary, PDF], founding member of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) who is being tried for several war crimes including genocide. In January a Bosnian court upheld the original conviction [JURIST reports] and 31-year sentence of Radomir Vukovic, who was captured earlier that month [JURIST report]. In December the US extradited Rasema Handanovic [JURIST report], a woman accused of killing Bosnian Croat civilians during the Bosnian Civil War.

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