By DUSAN STOJANOVIC
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — A Serbian appeals court on Thursday stopped a landmark trial against eight former Bosnian Serb police officers charged with taking part in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
The court in Belgrade said it has accepted defense complains that the charges against the eight are invalid because they were filed when Serbia did not appoint the chief war crimes prosecutor. The ruling means the whole proceeding will have to start over from scratch, which could take months or years.
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 trial was seen as a test of Serbia’s pledge to deal with its wartime past as it formally wants to join the European Union. It was seen as important step in Balkan reconciliation efforts more than two decades after the Bosnian war ended.
The eight men were charged with participating in the killing of 1,313 Muslims in a warehouse in Kravica, a village outside Srebrenica, as they tried to escape the Serb onslaught. They were crammed into a warehouse in the village and then killed with grenades and machine guns in a rampage that lasted all night.
Among the suspects is a special police unit commander, Nedeljko Milidragovic, also known as “Nedjo the Butcher,” accused of organizing the killings. The original indictment said Milidragovic fired his pistol at those who still showed signs of life after the carnage.
The group was apprehended in 2015. They were later released, despite the gravity of the charges, and attended the trial while at large.