Europe

Srebrenica massacre: Eight charged in Serbia's first court ruling

A woman mourns after the mass funeral for 136 newly-identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre attended by tens of thousands of mourners during the 20th anniversary of the massacre at the Potocari cemetery and memorial on 11 July 2015 in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some of the victims were buried as recently as July after they were identified using DNA analysis

War crimes prosecutors in Serbia have charged eight people over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, Europe's worst atrocity since World War Two.

They are accused of killing hundreds of Bosnian men and boys in a single day at a warehouse near Srebrenica.

It is the first time a Serbian court has charged anyone over the massacre of 8,000 people by Bosnian Serb forces.

The authorities in Bosnia and an international court in the Hague have carried out all previous prosecutions.

The men charged on Thursday belonged to a special Bosnian-Serb police unit that was operating in the eastern village of Kravica when the killings took place just over 20 years ago.

'The butcher'

They herded the mainly Muslim victims into a warehouse where they were killed with machine guns and grenades in an assault that lasted all night, the prosecutor's statement said.

Those charged included the unit's commander, Nedeljko Milidragovic, also known as Nedjo the Butcher, who was accused of giving the order for the killings and saying that "nobody should get out alive".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Serbian PM Alexsandar Vucic was chased away by stone-throwing protesters at the 20th anniversary commemorations of the massacre in July

Mr Milidragovic is already facing genocide charges in Bosnia but has been able to live freely in Serbia because of the lack of an extradition treaty, says the BBC's Guy De Launey in Belgrade.

But this changed in March when he and the seven other suspects were arrested as a result of co-operation between the war crimes court in Belgrade and its counterpart in Sarajevo, our correspondent adds.

Prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said the charges were a "message that there will be no impunity for war crimes and that the victims will not be forgotten".

The eight men could face a maximum sentence of 20 years if found guilty.

Fourteen people have been convicted at the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague in relation to the Srebrenica killings.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic (R) and former army chief Ratko Mladic are currently on trial at The Hague

Former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic are both on trial at The Hague, accused of crimes relating to the massacre.

The ICTY and the International Court of Justice have called the events genocide.

The Srebrenica massacre came amid the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia into independent states in the 1990s.

Serbia backed Bosnian Serb forces fighting the Muslim-led Bosnian government during the conflict.

In July 1995, in what was supposed to have been a UN safe haven, Bosnian Serb forces took control of Srebrenica. They rounded up and killed about 8,000 men and boys and buried them in mass graves.

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