November 30, 2018 / 1:49 PM / 7 months ago

Bosnian court acquits Srebrenica's Muslim defender at retrial

The Bosnian war crimes court jailed Bosnian Serb wartime commander Novak Djukic, pictured here in a frame grab, for 25 years on June 12, 2009 for ordering a mortar attack in 1995 on the northern town of Tuzla that killed 71 people and wounded more than 150. Tuzla was declared a United Nations safe zone during the Bosnian 1992-95 war and the attack on it violated the international law and Geneva conventions on the protection of civilians during warfare. REUTERS/Reuters TV

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - An appeals chamber of Bosnia’s war crimes court acquitted on Friday former Bosnian Muslim commander Naser Oric of human rights violations and the killings of three Serb prisoners of war in and around Srebrenica in the country’s 1992-95 conflict.

Oric, regarded as a hero by Bosnian Muslims, led the defense of Srebrenica, a besieged town that eventually fell to Bosnian Serb forces in 1995 who then killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two.

The second instance verdict was delivered after the court in June revoked its previous ruling, clearing Oric and fellow soldier Sabahudin Muhic of guilt, and ordered a new trial after the prosecutor complained of criminal procedures violations.

The appeals chamber found discrepancies in the statements of a key protected witness and “could not find them credible and establish beyond a reasonable doubt the responsibility” of Oric and Muhic for the alleged crimes, said judge Tihomir Lukes.

The verdict is final and cannot be appealed.

Branislav Dukic, the head of an association of Bosnian Serb prisoners of war, said the ruling was shameful. “All Serbs should leave the state judiciary in response,” he said.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) acquitted Oric of war crimes against Serbs in 2008, but he was arrested again in June 2015 in Switzerland on a warrant from Serbia accusing him of killing three Bosnian Serb prisoners of war early in the conflict.

During the war the United Nations declared Srebrenica a “safe area” but Dutch troops failed to prevent its capture by Bosnian Serb forces.

Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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