World

Landmark Srebrenica war crimes trial halts in Serbia

BELGRADE, Serbia — A Serbian appeals court on Thursday halted a landmark trial against eight former Bosnian Serb police officers charged with taking part in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre — another legal hurdle in the Balkan state’s struggle to come to terms with its wartime past.

The trial that started in December was the first time that a Serbian court has dealt with the killings by Bosnian Serb troops of around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica. It was Europe’s worst single atrocity since World War II.

The proceedings were seen as a test of Serbia’s pledge to deal with its wartime past as it formally wants to join the European Union — and as an important step in Balkan reconciliation efforts more than two decades after the Bosnian war ended.

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The court in Belgrade said Thursday it had accepted the defense’s contention that the charges against the eight were invalid because they were filed during the time when Serbia did not have a chief war crimes prosecutor. The ruling means the proceeding will have to start from scratch, which could take years.

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The appeals court said that according to the Serbian justice system, only the war crimes prosecutor can file war crimes indictments and conduct investigations.

Serbia had been without a prosecutor for more than a year after the previous one, Vladimir Vukcevic, retired.

Associated Press