December 23, 2015 / 2:57 PM / 2 years ago

Bosnia court indicts wartime commander for crimes by Islamic fighters

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - A Bosnian war crimes prosecutor on Wednesday indicted a wartime Muslim army commander on charges of failing to prevent crimes committed by foreign Islamic fighters against captive Bosnian Serb soldiers during a 1992-1995 war.

The 63-year-old retiree Sakib Mahmuljin was arrested on Dec. 8 on charges of acting in contravention of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions while serving as a commander of the 3rd Corps of the Army of BiH. [L8N13X1OX]

Prosecutor said the alleged crimes dated to July-October 1995 toward the end of the war, when the 3rd Corps and a detachment of foreign fighters known as El-Mujahid carried out offensives in central Bosnia.

Many Islamic fighters, or “mujahideen”, came from North Africa and the Middle East to help fellow Muslims fight against Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats during the Bosnian war, in which 100,000 people died.

The El-Mujahid detachment was under the official jurisdiction of the Bosnian Army during the war, though it operated autonomously.

During the operation, members of the El-Mujahid abducted and killed 50 Bosnian Serb prisoners of war who had been previously captured by other units of the 3rd Corps.

“Some prisoners were killed by ritual beheading and their heads were displayed to others as an example,” the statement from the prosecutor’s office said. It said that El-Mujahid members used extremely brutal forms of torture of the prisoners.

“They chopped off their ears, stubbed them, tied their hands up and beat them,” the statement said. “Some victims were bound securely by neck ropes into contorted positions that could choke them if they made any move and were left in that way for many hours.”

After the Bosnian war remains of ten victims have been exhumed, while the remainder remain unaccounted for, the office said.

Mahmuljin failed to prevent or punish the crimes committed by the members of the El-Mujahid Detachment despite being aware that crimes would be committed, the office said, adding it would invite more than 70 witnesses and present 900 pieces of evidence during the trial.

In 2008, the U.N. war crimes court jailed the former chief of Bosnia’s army, Rasim Delic, for three years for allowing the torture of Bosnian Serb soldiers by Islamic foreign fighters. At the time, Mahmuljin denied in local media any wrongdoing and said he did not have an effective control of the El-Mujahid.

The investigation against Mahmuljin was started by the Hague-based court which later transferred the lower-ranking cases to the Bosnian court.

Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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