Serbian police detained eight men on Wednesday suspected of taking part in the 1995 killing of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica, the first arrests by Serbian authorities over Europe’s deadliest atrocity since World War II.
The men identified only by their initials allegedly participated in the execution of about 1,000 Muslims in a single day at a warehouse in the eastern Bosnian town of Kravica near Srebrenica.
In total some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed and their bodies dumped in mass graves during the Srebrenica massacre, which became a symbol of the horror of the 1990s Balkan wars that erupted when the former Yugoslavia split apart.
“This is the first case in which our office is dealing with mass killings that were directly part of the Srebrenica massacre,” said Bruno Vekaric, the spokesman for the war crimes prosecutor’s office.
“The arrests are a message that neither Srebrenica victims nor war crimes perpetrators will be forgotten,” said Vekaric.
Victims at the Kravica warehouse were caught when fleeing through a forest and then executed by Bosnian Serb police and military, who packed them into the building and began shooting and throwing in grenades, according to previous court hearings.
Previous prosecutions in connection with the Srebrenica killings have been staged by either the Bosnian authorities or the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
The eight are suspected members of the Bosnian Serb “Jahorina” special police unit, a dozen of whose members have already been sentenced in Bosnia over the Kravica killings.
The unit’s commander Nedeljko Milidragovic is among those detained on Wednesday, said a source close to the probe. Nicknamed “Nedjo the Butcher,” he became a successful businessman in Serbia after the war, local media reported.
The detention of seven men was announced in the morning, the eighth was detained during the day, Vekaric added.
Bosnia’s war crimes prosecutor hailed Wednesday’s arrests as the result of “cooperation between the two countries’ prosecutors, and exchange of information and evidence on suspects living in Serbia”. Hatidza Mehmedovic, chair of the Mothers of Srebrenica association, said the arrests had come “too late”.