Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

Bosnian tensions in spotlight as Serbian prisoner abuse trial opens

The five men are accused of torturing detainees a quarter of a century ago

A Bosnian Muslim man says a prayer in front of the grave stone of his relative at Memorial Center of Potocari, near Srebrenica.
A Bosnian Muslim man says a prayer in front of the grave stone of his relative at Memorial Center of Potocari, near Srebrenica.

Former Bosniak fighters accused of war crimes against prisoners in the 1990s went on trial at the Bosnian state court in Sarajevo in a case that has revived memories of the bitter ethnic warfare in the region following the end of the cold war.

The five men, who held positions of varying degrees of authority in the Bosnian Army, were said to have beaten and broken the bones of Serbian prisoners of war between 1992-1994. An indictment says the men caused severe physical and mental harm to their victims on a regular basis in detention facilities.

The body of one prisoner – presumed dead – has never been found and another died in detention.

After the EU all but suspended the accession process for North Macedonia and Albania at a summit last month, the peace settlement that has stood for 20 years faced fresh doubts. Relations between Bosnian and Serb run enclaves have deteriorated amid the rise of new strains of nationalist politics.

Prosecution witnesses are expected to give evidence on December 2. Among those standing trial is Camil Ramic, a former commander in the Visegrad Brigade of the Bosnian Army local security chief, and Mehmedalija Topalovic, who was a soldier. Ramic is accused of failing to prevent or punish those below him who had abused prisoners

Himzo Selimovic was an officer in the eastern Bosnian forces accused of assaulting prisoners under integration and Ramiz Micivoda was a local police chief.

They were joined by Mehmed Dobraca, another former Bosnian security official.

Some 100 witnesses are expected to be called to give evidence.

Updated: November 19, 2019 06:10 PM

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