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04 December 2023

Bosnia halts war crimes probe of former president


Bosnia's prosecution said Tuesday it has decided to halt a probe for alleged war crimes of former wartime president Ejup Ganic and 13 others in a case also investigated by neighbouring Serbia.

"It was established that the behaviour of these (14) suspects does not constitute a war crime," the Bosnian prosecution said in a statement, adding that the conclusion was based on testimonies of 352 witnesses and 412 pieces of evidence.

Neighbouring Serbia accuses the 14 officials of playing a role in an attack on a convoy of the then Yugoslav army as it was withdrawing from Sarajevo in the early days of 1992-95 war in Bosnia.

Belgrade says 18 people were killed in the attack, while Bosnia puts the toll at seven killed and 14 injured.

The Bosnian prosecutor said the attack could nevertheless be qualified as a war crime as "the victims were shot at after they were incapable of fighting or while in an ambulance."

It added that the probe of the attack would continue in order to identify those behind it.

Bosnian Serb authorities immediately condemned the prosecution's decision.

"The decision ... was made under political pressures," said Dzerard Selman, justice minister of Bosnian Serbs' Republika Srpska, one of the two entities of post-war Bosnia.

And Stasa Kosarac, a Serb deputy in Bosnia's central parliament, said the move was a "defeat for justice" and accused the prosecution of "bias."

Serbian authorities have earlier issued arrest warrants on suspects in the case, although they were cleared from charges in their country.

Bosnia's war between its Croats, Muslims and Serbs claimed some 100,000 lives.

The war left the country split into two semi-autnomous halves -- the Serbs' Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation.

During the war Belgrade politically and militarily backed ethnic Serbs in Bosnia.

The two sides, once both former Yugoslav republics, have been at loggerheads over the case, as Belgrade insisted the attack on the convoy had been ordered personally by Ganic, despite an agreement for the withdrawal of the Yugoslav forces from the Bosnian capital.

Ganic, a Muslim member of Bosnia's joint presidency during the war, has repeatedly rejected the claims against him.

At Serbia's request, Ganic was arrested and detained for several months in Britain in 2010.

He was released after British justice deemed the procedure was politically motivated and that no significant new evidence had emerged since the UN war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia cleared Ganic.

Also, Bosnian army wartime general Jovan Divjak was detained in Austria last March. He was released after five months as an Austrian court rejected a Belgrade extradition request.