x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Israel holds man wanted over massacre of Bosnian Muslims

Extradition proceedings begin against Aleksandar Cvetkovic, who is accused of taking part in killing of more than 800 Bosnian Muslim men and boys as part of Srebrenica massacre.

JERUSALEM/BELGRADE // Israel launched extradition proceedings today against an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia whom Bosnia wants to try for alleged involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, officials said.

Aleksandar Cvetkovic, a Bosnian Serb who moved to Israel in 2006, is accused of helping shoot around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Europe's worst atrocity since World War Two.

Israel's Justice Ministry said Mr Cvetkovic, 42, was arrested today and that prosecutors would seek court approval to extradite him to Bosnia for trial on genocide charges. A ministry official predicted a lengthy process. "If extradition is approved, we expect that he will wage exhaustive appeals," the official said.

It was not immediately clear if Mr Cvetkovic had been assigned a lawyer, or how he would respond to allegations that he was part of a military firing squad in Srebrenica, which had been a United Nations-protected zone until it fell to the Serbs.

He is suspected of "having personally taken part in the execution of more than 800 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys from the UN safe area", the Bosnian state prosecutor's office said in a statement.

According to evidence cited in the Israeli prosecutors' extradition request, Mr Cvetkovic had "initiated the use of an M-84 machine-gun in order to speed up the killings".

The prosecutors said the allegations against Mr Cvetkovic, who was to be arraigned at a Jerusalem court on Wednesday, justified holding him in police custody "given the enormity of the danger posed to the public".

According to the Justice Ministry, Mr Cvetkovic's marriage to a Jewish woman, with whom he has children, helped him secure Israeli citizenship.

But he cannot ask to serve any eventual prison time in Israel because the crimes he is accused of predate his immigration, the ministry said. It spelled his first name "Aleksander".

The UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague has sentenced 14 Bosnian Serbs over the Srebrenica massacre, which took place at the peak of a 1992-95 civil war that claimed 100,000 lives.

Crimes related to Srebrenica appear on indictments against the wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, whose trial is under way in The Hague, and against his fugitive army chief Ratko Mladic, believed by prosecutors to be hiding in Serbia.

A Bosnian war crimes court set up in 2005 to relieve the burden on the Hague-based tribunal has prosecuted dozens of Bosnians, most of them Serbs, for the Srebrenica killings. Twelve have been jailed, seven acquitted, and 11 await verdicts. Bosnian prosecutors say they are investigating several members of what was then the Bosnian Serb army's 10th commando unit, where Mr Cvetkovic served.

Asked about a possible timeline for Mr Cvetkovic's case, the Justice Ministry official said that a group of Israelis wanted on organised crime charges in the United States were extradited last week after an appeals process of almost two and a half years.