Bosnia's Tuzla sues Serb leader over war crimes denial

A Bosnia town has filed criminal charges against Bosnian Serb leader Dodik for denying the 1992-95 Serb massacres of civilians in Tuzla and Sarajevo.

Bosnia's Tuzla sues Serb leader over war crimes denial

The Bosnia town of Tuzla has filed criminal charges against Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik for denying the massacres of civilians in Tuzla and Sarajevo during the 1992-95 war, officials said on Thursday.

Dodik, the prime minister of Bosnia's Serb Republic, known for his separatist rethoric, has said that the 1995 Serb mortar attack that killed 71 people in the northern town of Tuzla was staged and dead bodies brought from elsewhere.

"This was the biggest tragedy in the history of Tuzla and town councillors and citizens have taken this arrogant and unbelievably cruel statement from Mr Milorad Dodik in a very painful and dramatic way," said Tuzla mayor Jasmin Imamovic.

Prosecutors filed criminal charges against Dodik at three local courts on several counts, including the incitement of ethnic, racial and religious hatred, Imamovic told Reuters.

The incident highlighted the precarious peace and simmering ethnic tensions in the country, where reforms and progress towards European Union membership have been blocked by attacks by Bosnia's Serbs on Muslims and Croats.

In May 1995, the Bosnian Serb forces shelled Tuzla, which had been declared a United Nations safe zone, and one missile hit the very centre of the town killing 71 people, mostly youngsters, and wounding more than 150.

In June, Bosnia's war crimes court sentenced Serb wartime commander Novak Djukic to 25 years in prison for the attack.

Dodik, who insisted that Djukic was innocent, also questioned the massacres at Sarajevo's main market in 1994 and 1995, when a total of 105 people were killed and 234 wounded by Serb shells.

Western diplomats in Bosnia condemned Dodik's statements, saying the facts were clearly established after Djukic's conviction and noting that the U.N. war crimes tribunal jailed two Bosnian Serb generals over the Sarajevo market killings.

"Any attempt to change the established historical record of war crimes is unacceptable and inexcusable," international peace overseer Valentin Inzko and other top diplomats said in a joint statement last week.

Dodik strongly opposes the renewal of mandates for international judges and prosecutors at the Bosnian state court, even though judicial officials complain that without them the court will remain understaffed and underfunded.

Dodik's spokeswoman said on Thursday he had always insisted that all crimes committed during the war must be exposed and perpetrators found and punished.

"Everything he said about the crimes at Markale (Sarajevo market) and Tuzla was intended as a call for establishing the truth about the crimes and for trying the real perpetrators," Biljana Bokic said in statement to Reuters, without elaborating.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Eylül 2009, 17:57