Supreme Court: Israeli suspected of war crimes can be extradited to Bosnia
Court rejects Aleksandar Cvetkovic's appeal, in which he claimed he was not involved in the deaths of hundreds of Muslim civilians.
Aleksandar Cvetkovic, an Israeli citizen who lives in Carmiel, can be extradited to Bosnia-Herzegovina on suspicion he took part in massacres during the 1995 Balkans war, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
The court rejected an appeal by Cvetkovic, a Bosnian Serb married to a Jewish woman, of a Jerusalem District Court decision and ruled that he can be extradited to face trial for genocide at the War Crimes Court in Sarajevo.
Justice Salim Joubran wrote in his decision that "the appellant, along with other soldiers, participated in the murders of hundreds of Muslim civilians, some of whom had their hands bound and their eyes covered, some shot in the back with pistols, others beaten to death with sticks, and buried in mass graves." Joubran said soldiers in Cvetkovic's unit had testified that they knew exactly what they were doing, and that Cvetkovic either aware the he was contributing to the "decimation of the Muslim population in Srebrenica or that he at least turned a blind eye towards [it]."
Jubran said there was no evidence Cvetkovic had expressed any opposition to taking part in the massacre, adding that "some of the evidence indicates the appellant proposed making the procedure more 'efficient' by using an M-84 machine gun."
Cvetkovic served as a soldier in the 10th Saboteur unit of the Bosnian Serb Army of the Srpska Republic, and according to the evidence against him, he was involved in the massacre of 1,000 to 1,200 Bosnian Muslims at the Branjevo farm north of the city of Zvornik.
On July 16, 1995, the commander of the 10th Saboteur unit ordered eight of his soldiers, including Cvetkovic, to go to the town of Pilica and join in the killing of Bosnian Muslim prisoners being held at the school there. Cvetkovic and the other seven soldiers were transported to the Branjevo farm, where prisoners who had been taken there by bus from Pilica were waiting.
After prisoners arrived at the farm, some blindfolded with hands bound, they were taken off the buses. The soldiers, purportedly including Cvetkovic, lined them up and shot them in the back with automatic weapons, machine guns and pistols. After each volley, the soldiers walked among the victims, looking for any still alive, and shot dead those who were. The evidence indicates that at one stage, Cvetkovic suggested using an M-84 machine gun to speed up the process.
Only one soldier refused
Testimony from Soldiers and survivors - those who successfully played dead - estimate the slaughter went on about 10 hours. A witness said no one objected or protested except one soldier, Derzen Ardomovic, who was sentenced to five years in prison after admitting his participation in the massacre. A soldier said one other soldier protested, but carried out the killing for fear of being killed himself if he refused.
Interrogated at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Cvetkovic said he had only been a driver and denied his involvement in the killing. In his Supreme Court appeal, he argued it had not been proved the massacre fit the definition of genocide, nor that he was aware of a plan for ethnic cleansing, nor that he acted to implement it. Also, Cvetkovic argued that his life would be at risk if he were imprisoned in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and that he would not get a fair trial there.
Cvetkovic, born in an area that is now part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, immigrated to Israel in 2006 with his wife and received Israeli citizenship because she is Jewish.