Former Bosniak officials charged with war crimes over 1992 attack

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Ten Bosniak political and military leaders have been charged with war crimes over the Dobrovoljačka street attack in 1992 by the Bosnian state-level Prosecutor’s Office.

The suspects are accused of assaulting Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) personnel as they were leaving Sarajevo in an UN-escorted convoy.

Eight people were killed and 24 others were injured in the incident, which occurred on 3 May 1992 at the start of the Bosnian war, just one day after violent bombings on Sarajevo by Serb forces.

Tensions flared up after military column stopped in city centre

Named after the street it took place in, the “Dobrovoljačka” incident took place after a column of JNA vehicles was briefly stopped in the city’s centre, as efforts took place to free Bosnia’s President Alija Izetbegović, who had been detained by the JNA at the capital’s airport.

According to witness accounts, the convoy was intercepted and broken in half when a vehicle drove into the column. The resulting sporadic exchange of fire and disorganised fighting took place for several minutes until an order to cease fire was heard by all belligerents.

Bosnian prosecutors say the victims included military and civilian employees of the JNA, as well as military medical personnel.

“Several dozen soldiers and civilians were arrested and tortured,” the prosecutor’s office added in a statement regarding the indictment.

The ten suspects on trial are accused of having “planned, attacked and incited others to attack the undefended column, composed of military and civilians […] and escorted by UN peacekeepers.”

They are also alleged to have failed to prevent the killings or punish those responsible for the attack.

Previous indictments rejected

Among the accused is Ejup Ganić — one of the members of the Bosnian collegiate presidency during the war — who has previously been cleared of wrongdoing.

In 2010, Ganić was held in custody in the UK after the Serbian Prosecutor’s Office issued a warrant for his arrest, accusing him of command responsibility for the alleged war crimes in the Dobrovoljačka.

Ganić was released by a London court deliberating on his extradition, stating that the case was “politically motivated”.

Similarly, retired Bosnian Brigadier-General Jovo Divjak was arrested in Vienna in March 2011 after another warrant by the Serbian prosecution.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia — a UN-backed court set up to prosecute crimes that took place during the wars that took place during the country’s disintegration — stated that it established that there was insufficient evidence to indict Divjak for war crimes in 2002.

Divjak was released in July of the same year. He died in April 2021.

More than 100,000 people died during the 1992-1995 conflict in Bosnia, while millions were displaced or sought refuge outside of the country.

The conflict ended in the US-brokered Dayton Peace Accords in 1995, but the country remains ethnically divided and impoverished.

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