Israel extradites Serb-Israeli to Bosnia-Herzegovina for genocide

Defendant "stunned by charges"; fellow soldiers testify Serb-Israeli participated in slaughter of 1,000-1,200 Muslims.

Alexander Zvtkovic 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
Alexander Zvtkovic 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
Israel extradited Serb-Israeli Alexander Zvtkovic to Bosnia- Herzegovina on Thursday to face genocide charges.
The move followed a recent failed challenge to his extradition before the High Court of Justice after former justice minister Yaakov Neeman had signed off on the extradition.
The government of Bosnia- Herzegovina submitted the request for his extradition on August 29, 2010.
Also, in November 2012, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling to extradite Zvtkovic to Bosnia- Herzegovina.
Extraditions are a rare proceeding where a defendant can both go before the Supreme Court as an appeals court and later appeal to the same court in its capacity as the High Court of Justice on different grounds.
Zvtkovic is suspected of involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in which as many as 8,000 Muslims were executed after Serb forces overran the town during the civil war in Bosnia.
The 43-year-old Zvtkovic was alleged to be a former member of the 10th Sapper’s Unit of the Bosnian-Serb army. The Jerusalem District Court declared him extraditable, but he appealed to the Supreme Court.
The defense had claimed, among other things, that Zvtkovic was stunned by the charges.
In addition to noting the poor quality of prison conditions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the defense argued that Zvtkovic would not get a fair trial because of the politics surrounding the accusations against him and that he feared for his life when fellow prisoners learned of what he was accused.
Furthermore, the defense said that the judges he would face were not independent on cases like his.
On the charges themselves, it argued that Zvtkovic had been a soldier, but did not participate in the actions attributed to him.
Alternatively, the defense said that it had never been proven that what occurred at Srebrenica could be legally defined as genocide.
However, according to the testimony of some eyewitnesses, Zvtkovic took part in a massacre at the Branjevo Farm on July 16, 1995.
Derzen Ardomovic, who testified at the trial of other suspects in the Srebrenica massacre, served in the same unit as Zvtkovic. In his testimony, Ardomovic said that on the day of the massacre, their commanding officers informed them that in a few minutes, buses carrying Muslims from Srebrenica would be arriving and that they were to be executed.
When the buses arrived, Ardomovic said, the commanders ordered the soldiers to remove the Muslims and escort them to the place where they were to be executed. The soldiers led the people, who were blindfolded and had their hands tied, a distance of 100-200 meters from the bus, Ardomovic testified.
“There they shot them in the back in accordance with a command from Brano Gojkovic [one of the commanders]. Eight soldiers took part in the execution. All of them obeyed the commands and fired at the victims with their automatic rifles,” Ardomovic said.
He added that at one point, Zvtkovic complained that the executions were taking place too slowly and suggested using an M- 84 machine gun to kill the Muslims.
The other soldiers agreed and used it to open fire on two groups of captives, he said.
Ardomovic estimated that between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the soldiers killed 1,000- 1,200 Bosnians.
The defense claimed that there were evidentiary problems with Ardomovic’s testimony, contending that he had been offered a deal to testify in private, but not in open court.
In other words, the defense said it would not get a chance to cross-examine Ardomovic, making it impossible to verify his testimony.
Another witness, known only by his initials Z.I., also testified that Zvtkovic had been one of eight Serb soldiers who carried out the executions at the farm.
Z.I. said that a bus carrying captured Muslims arrived every 20-30 minutes at the farm.
The soldiers were ordered to escort groups of 10 passengers at a time to a spot near the bus.
The passengers ranged in age from 18 to 60. There were a few in military uniforms but most of the victims were dressed in civilian clothing.
When finalizing the reasons that Zvtkovic’s arguments were unavailing, the Supreme Court said that the state only needed to prove that there was sufficient evidence to extradite, which it had done.
Also, the court noted that Bosnia-Herzegovina made guarantees to the State of Israel that Zvtkovic would be held in special conditions to maintain his safety, including permitting Israeli consular visits to verify that his conditions were appropriate.
Zvtkovic immigrated to Israel with his wife and children in 2006 and received Israeli citizenship because his wife is Jewish.
Before his arrest, he was living in Karmiel and working in a factory and in construction.