Srebrenica Genocide Trial to Restart

The Associated Press
Sunday, August 20, 2006; 4:56 PM

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal resumes one of its most significant trials Monday, the case of seven Bosnian Serb military and paramilitary police officers charged in the slaughter of thousands of Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

The trial is the Hague-based court's latest attempt to hold senior officials responsible for the July 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica, a U.N.-declared safe haven in eastern Bosnia, as the war in that country reached a bloody climax.

Five of the suspects face genocide charges in Europe's worst civilian massacre since the Holocaust. Two more are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. All the suspects have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry maximum life sentences if convicted.

The court's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, had planned to make a statement outlining the charges and evidence when the trial opened for a single day last month before the court's summer recess.

But judges ordered Del Ponte to wait until Monday when the trial, which is expected to last several months, begins its first full week of testimony.

According to the indictment, the men were involved in the carefully planned mass murder, persecution and forced expulsion of Muslims seeking U.N. protection in the Srebrenica enclave.

The men's 52-page indictment lists several massacres as examples of what it calls "the joint criminal enterprise to murder the able-bodied Muslim men" of Srebrenica.

Among them was a summary execution on a hill near the village of Nova Kasaba. There, Bosnian Serb troops and paramilitary police officers lined up about 100 Muslim prisoners and mowed them down with heavy machine guns.

"A short time later, a second group of approximately 30 prisoners arrived, were lined up, and also executed," the indictment said. "A third group arrived soon thereafter and were similarly executed."

In another massacre, soldiers and paramilitaries locked more than 1,000 men in a warehouse and blasted it with automatic gunfire and hand grenades. The bodies were plowed into one of the many mass graves that dot Srebrenica and which still are yielding up the shattered skeletons of the victims.

Last week, forensic experts said they had exhumed the remains of more than 1,000 victims from a single mass grave near the village of Kamenica. Many of the victims had their arms bound with cloth or plastic and bullets were mixed with the bones.

Many of the skeletons were badly damaged, an indication that the bodies were dug up from elsewhere and dumped into the so-called secondary grave, experts said.

The Hague-based court has staged only a handful of trials dealing with the atrocities at Srebrenica, including the case against former Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic, which was aborted with his death in March.

The two men accused of masterminding the slayings _ former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic _ are still on the run. Mladic's deputy, Gen. Radislav Krstic, is serving a 35-year prison term for aiding and abetting genocide, and Col. Vidoje Blagojevic is appealing his 18-year sentence for complicity in genocide.

© 2006 The Associated Press