Serbia, BiH disagree on extradition protocol


An arrest warrant and extradition request have sparked a debate between Serbia and BiH on protocol.

By Bedrana Kaletovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 18/02/14


Former commander of Bosnian Muslim forces in Srebrenica Naser Oric (centre) arrives at Sarajevo International Airport on July 4th, 2008, one day after he was cleared of war crimes against Serbs by The Hague's UN tribunal. [AFP]

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Serbia are sparing over extradition protocol after the Interpol National Central Bureau for Serbia issued an arrest warrant for former Bosnian Muslim commander Nasar Oric.

The Serbian Prosecutor's Office is investigating the murder of Serb civilians in the municipality of Srebrenica on July 12th, 1992, and said the suspects are Oric, Hakija Meholjic and three of their associates.

The five men are suspected of committing war crimes against the civilian population in Zalazje, Donji Potocari, which resulted in the deaths of nine Serb civilians.

Oric was sentenced to two years in prison in 2006 after he was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for failing to prevent the deaths of five Bosnian Serb detainees and the mistreatment of 11 others between 1992 and 1993 in Srebrenica. An ICTY appeals court overturned his conviction and acquitted him of all charges in 2008.

"BiH, as a member country of Interpol, needs to act in accordance with Serbia's request. If this is not to happen, we are breaking international norms, and that which allowed BiH to become a member country. This pulls along possible suspensions and the loss of credibility in international relations," said Igor Radojcic, president of the Republika Srpska parliament.

But the Directorate for Co-ordination of Police Bodies of BiH said that Oric and the others would not be extradited.

"According to the law on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, [the suspects] are unable to face extradition to another country because they are citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina," the directorate said in a statement for SETimes.

Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak member of BiH's tripartite presidency, said Serbia is constantly questioning suspects from BiH, even after they are found not guilty by The Hague tribunal.

He said that Orić was subject to a detailed investigation in The Hague, and that investigation is over.

"It is out of the question that he should be tried for the same crimes again in BiH, let alone in Serbia," Izetbegovic said last month after he met with Oric, who came to ask for protection from extradition to Serbia.

Belgrade informed the Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France, about the warrants on February 4th. The international police organisation will decide if the warrant will be changed from a diffusion to a red notice.

Diffusions are not binding. Any country that found Oric or Meholjic in its territory would decide for itself if they should be arrested and extradited to Serbia, the Directorate for Co-ordination of Police Bodies of BiH said. A red notice is binding for all the members of Interpol, and if found, the suspects must be extradited.

According to a protocol signed January 31st, 2013 between Serbia and BiH, the two states will co-operate to process war criminals, crimes against humanity and genocides.

The 2013 agreement was praised by the European Commission, which said it represents significant progress in regional co-operation to process war crime cases and it intensifies the relations of BiH, Serbia and Croatia in the field of co-operation in justice.

"The protocol is valuable because in war crime cases witness are in one country and the perpetrators in another, and material evidence even in a third. It is very, very difficult to get a final outcome. Agreements, like this protocol, help to delete borders," Bruno Vekaric, Serbia's deputy war crimes prosecutor told SETimes.

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But former Serbia interior minister Bozidar Prelević said that many protocols are not functional.

"It's a conflict of professions and politics. There are situations where politicians want to be the ones to decide things. On the other hand, when the prosecution has evidence that someone has done something, they have to initiate proceedings. So, in this case, you have a conflict of professions and politics," Prelević said.

Correspondent Ivana Jovanovic in Belgrade contributed to this report.

How do you think Serbia and BiH should handle the extradition debate? Share your thoughts in the comments area.

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