Aleksandar Cvetkovic - AFP - 02082011
Aleksandar Cvetkovic being escorted into the Jerusalem District Court Monday. Photo by AFP
Text size

The Jerusalem District Court ruled Monday that an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia could be extradited to Bosnia to face genocide charges for involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

Aleksandar Cvetkovic, a Bosnian Serb living in Israel since 2006, was arrested in January on an international warrant issued over testimony he helped shoot some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

Cvetkovic says that while he served as an army driver when Srebrenica, formerly a U.N.-protected zone, fell to the Serbs during the 1992-95 civil war, he is innocent of the slaughter.

He has 30 days in which to try to appeal against the district court's decision to the Supreme Court.

"One of our major arguments was that the genocidal intent was not made out in his case," said Nick Kaufman, one of Cvetkovic's lawyers. "We have to learn the judge's decision and see whether or not an appeal is justified here."

Cvetkovic would be extradited to a court in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, set up in 2005 to relieve the burden on the Hague-based U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The two courts have prosecuted dozens of Bosnian Serbs over Srebrenica.

Among these is former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, who was arrested by Serbia in May and extradited to The Hague. Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic, arrested in 2008, is also on trial for Srebrenica and the Serb siege of Sarajevo. Both men deny wrongdoing.

Cvetkovic's unprecedented case has piqued interest in Israel, with its founding memories of the Holocaust and more recent pro-Palestinian efforts to prosecute its military commanders for alleged war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza.

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

The Bosnian state prosecutor's office, citing testimony from other Serb soldiers, said he was believed to have taken part in shooting more than 800 Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica.

According to evidence cited in the Jerusalem District Court's 56-page ruling, Cvetkovic had "said that this execution is proceeding slowly and that they should also start to use the M-84 machine gun," a suggestion taken up by his comrades.

The Jerusalem District Court conditioned his extradition on assurances by Sarajevo regarding incarceration standards there.