British court holds extradition hearing for ex-Bosnian vice president accused of war crimes

By Sylvia Hui, AP
Monday, July 5, 2010

Hearing opens in Britain for ex-Bosnian leader

LONDON — A former Bosnian vice president arrested on war crimes charges Monday protested his potential extradition from Britain to Serbia, claiming authorities in Belgrade won’t give him a fair trial.

Ejup Ganic told reporters outside a London court that Serbia’s extradition request was politically motivated and distorted facts. He made the comments as a hearing opened to determine whether he should be sent to Belgrade to be prosecuted for atrocities he allegedly committed in 1992 during the Bosnian conflict.

“They are trying to confuse the British judicial system, to say: ‘We are an organized country that can give a fair trial,” he said.

Ganic was arrested by British authorities at London’s Heathrow Airport in March on a Serbian warrant accusing Ganic of ordering attacks on a hospital and retreating Serb soldiers in May 1992 in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.

Ganic denies the claims, and current Bosnian leaders insist the charges are part of a campaign to minimize Serb guilt for the 1992-95 war that tore apart the Balkans.

The former leader’s arrest has reignited tensions between former foes Bosnia and Serbia, which have been making slow progress toward reconciliation after the end of the conflict. The two sides still heatedly dispute responsibilities in the conflict, and thousands of Bosnians gathered in March in Sarajevo to accuse Serbia of lying about its history.

“They hope to rewrite history because this is a country that committed genocide,” Ganic said of Serbia.

Lawyer James Lewis, representing Serbia’s government, used videos, maps and witness statements to outline a series of clashes in Sarajevo in 1992.

He described an ambush on ambulances carrying unarmed soldiers who were shot as they tried to surrender. That incident, he said, was followed the next day by a grenade attack on a hospital.

Lewis said Ganic — currently on bail in London — ordered the attacks, which were illegal under the Geneva Conventions.

“It is alleged Dr. Ganic acted with others to carry out a course of conduct which would necessarily amount to the commission of war crimes,” he said.

He was expected to elaborate on Ganic’s personal role in the atrocities in the remaining four days of the hearing.

Bosnian leader Haris Silajdzic has said there was no evidence against Ganic. Some of the allegations had been investigated by the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague, but prosecutors there decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

Outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court, several critics of Ganic protested with placards that said: “Ganic: Blood on his hands.”

The court will take weeks to come to a decision on his extradition.

will not be displayed