Bosnian Muslim wartime commander charged with crimes against Serbs

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnian Muslim wartime commander Atif Dudakovic and 16 senior members of his unit were charged on Thursday with carrying out atrocities against Serbs in western Bosnia during the 1992-95 war.

FILE PHOTO: New commander of the Bosnian Moslem-Croat federation army Atif Dudakovic addresses guests during a hand-over ceremony in Sarajevo July 21. General Dudakovic succeeded retired Bosnian war-time commander General Rasim Delic. DS/WS

The 65-year-old was also charged with war crimes against fellow Muslims who were members of, or supported, a rival faction in the area during the conflict, Bosnia’s state prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Dudaković has regularly dismissed all the accusations as politically motivated.

Bosnia has been ruled by Serb, Croat and Muslim nationalist parties for the most part since the end of the war in which more than 100,000 died. It remains deeply divided along ethnic lines and steps toward reconciliation have been small.

Dudaković was a general in the Bosnian Muslim-dominated army who commanded the 5th Corps operating in the Bihac enclave, which was surrounded and besieged by the Bosnian Serb forces from 1991-1995.

After the war, he served as the general commander of the army in Bosnia’s autonomous Bosniak-Croat Federation, which was later merged in the country-wide armed forces.

“The defendants are accused of the murder of more than 300 Serbs, most of them civilians, mainly elderly, as well as soldiers who had surrendered or were detained,” the statement said.

The prosecutors said that bodies of a number of the victims were found in several mass and individual graves after the war, while the search for the others was still under the way.

Part of the indictment refers to crimes committed against Muslims led by renegade leader Fikret Abdic, who had set up a breakaway province around the western town of Velika Kladusa.

Abdic himself was jailed for 20 years in 2002 for war crimes against Muslims loyal to the Bosnian government by a court in Croatia, which later reduced his prison term to 15 years and released him in 2012.

Dudakovic and another 11 members of his Corps were arrested in April on war crimes charges but were later released with restrictions on their movement.

The prosecutors said they will invite 447 witnesses and present more than 1,100 documents as evidence. Bosnia’s state court needs to confirm the indictment.

Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Andrew Heavens