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Israel Orders Extradition of Accused Bosnian Serb War Criminal

3:12 PM, Aug 3, 2011 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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Israeli media report that Aleksandar Cvetkovic, 43, a Bosnian Serb who emigrated to the Jewish state and acquired Israeli citizenship through marriage, has been ordered extradited to Bosnia-Herzegovina to face trial for his alleged involvement in the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. Cvetkovic, who moved to Israel in 2006, fathered children there, and lived in the northern Israeli city of Karmiel, has 30 days to appeal the decision.

Aleksandar Cvetkovic

Some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were slain at Srebrenica, which had been a United Nations “safe area” under protection by Dutch soldiers. In May of this year, Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military commander charged with main responsibility for the atrocity, was arrested in Serbia and turned over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at the Hague.

Cvetkovic was arrested in Israel in January based on the Bosnian prosecutor’s claim that he participated in an eight-member firing squad involved in killing between 800 and 1,200 people at the Branjevo Military Agricultural Colony, about 20 miles northwest of Srebrenica.  According to the Bosnian documentation, handcuffed and blindfolded Bosnian Muslim males were taken by buses to the Branjevo site during an operation lasting about 10 hours. When they left the buses, they were shot. 

Credible Serbian sources state that investigations of the 10th Diversionary Unit of the Bosnian Serb forces, in which Cvetkovic served at Srebrenica, have been carried out in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, and in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, at the same time as the inquiry into the unit’s activities conducted by the Hague tribunal.  The unit was created in 1994 at the order of Mladic.

Bosnian authorities sent the request to Israel for Cvetkovic’s extradition last year. Cvetkovic was held in jail during the Israeli examination of the case. On Monday, August 1, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that he could be deported. Cases based on violations of international law in the Bosnian war have been tried in Bosnia-Herzegovina since 2005, to ease the burden of work on the Hague tribunal. 

Cvetkovic has claimed he was simply a military driver at Srebrenica and is innocent of involvement in the mass killings.  However, Gal Levertov, director of the International Department of the Israeli Prosecutor’s Office, declared, “The case has very clear evidence, and more evidence than is usual in such deportation cases.” Levertov said Cvetkovic would probably receive a long prison term if he is convicted in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but that the sentence would be heavier if he were to be tried and found guilty in Israel.

The Jerusalem District Court issued a 56-page ruling that cited testimony from other soldiers in the Serbian forces, and was provided by the Bosnian state prosecutor. In it, Cvetkovic is said to have complained at Srebrenica that “this execution is proceeding slowly and they should use the M-84 machine gun.”

In issuing the extradition order, Israeli judge Judge Amnon Cohen included, as conditions, that the Bosnian authorities keep Cvetkovic in a separate, secure detention facility prior to his trial and after his conviction, if he is found guilty.

Cohen called on the Bosnian authorities to allow regular visits to Cvetkovic, based on his Israeli citizenship, by consular representatives of the Israeli ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Cohen also specified that any sentence levied against Cvetkovic should conform to standards established by the European Court of Human Rights.

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