Aleksandar Cvetkovic, a Bosnian Serb suspected of involvement in genocide.
Aleksandar Cvetkovic, a Bosnian Serb suspected of involvement in genocide. Photo by Interpol
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Bosnian woman protesting during war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1995. Photo by AP

Israel launched extradition proceedings on Tuesday against an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia whom Bosnia wants to try for alleged involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, officials said.

Aleksandar Cvetkovic, a Bosnian Serb who moved to Israel in 2006, is accused of helping shoot around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Europe's worst atrocity since World War Two.

The Justice Ministry said 42-year-old Cvetkovic was arrested on Tuesday and that prosecutors would seek court approval to extradite him to Bosnia for trial on genocide
charges. A ministry official predicted a lengthy process.

"If extradition is approved, we expect that he will wage exhaustive appeals," the official said.

It was not immediately clear if Cvetkovic had been assigned a lawyer, or how he would respond to allegations that he was part of a military firing squad in Srebrenica, which had been a United Nations-protected zone until it fell to the Serbs.

He is suspected of "having personally taken part in the execution of more than 800 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys from the UN safe area", the Bosnian state prosecutor's office said in a statement.

According to evidence cited in the prosecutors' extradition request, Cvetkovic had "initiated the use of an M-84 machine-gun in order to speed up the killings".

The prosecutors said the allegations against Cvetkovic, who was to be arraigned at a Jerusalem court on Wednesday, justified holding him in police custody "given the enormity of the danger posed to the public".

Jurisdiction

According to the Justice Ministry, Cvetkovic's marriage to a Jewish woman, with whom he has children, helped him secure Israeli citizenship.

But he cannot ask to serve any eventual prison time in Israel because the crimes he is accused of predate his immigration, the ministry said. It spelled his first name
"Aleksander".

The UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague has sentenced 14 Bosnian Serbs over the Srebrenica massacre, which took place at the peak of a 1992-95 civil war that claimed 100,000 lives.

Crimes related to Srebrenica appear on indictments against Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, whose trial is under way in The Hague, and against his fugitive army chief Ratko Mladic, believed by prosecutors to be hiding in Serbia.

A Bosnian war crimes court set up in 2005 to relieve the burden on the Hague-based tribunal has prosecuted dozens of Bosnians, most of them Serbs, for the Srebrenica killings.

Twelve have been jailed, seven acquitted, and 11 await verdicts.

Bosnian prosecutors say they are investigating several members of what was then the Bosnian Serb army's 10th commando unit, where Cvetkovic served.

Asked about a possible timeline for Cvetkovic's case, the Justice Ministry official noted that a group of Israelis wanted on organized crime charges in the United States were extradited last week following an appeals process of almost 2 1/2 years.