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Switzerland to extradite acquitted war crimes suspect Oric to Bosnia, not Serbia

Switzerland has said it will extradite the former commander of the mainly Muslim Bosnian government forces in Srebrenica to Bosnia. The case has raised tensions between Sarajevo and Belgrade.

The Swiss justice office announced on Thursday that facing extradition requests from both Serbia and Bosnia, they had opted to extradite former the Bosnian army (ARBiH) commander in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, to Bosnia.

"In simplified proceedings, the Federal Office of Justice today approved the extradition of Naser Oric to Bosnia and Herzegovina," the Swiss justice office said in a statement.

It also said the "simplified proceedings" had been made possible by the fact that Oric had stated at an extradition request hearing on Thursday that he agreed to be extradited to his native Bosnia. It also pointed to legal arguments, which it said required it to comply with the request from Sarajevo for his extradition, as opposed to

a previous one issued by Belgrade.

"The decisive points here are the same criminal acts on which both requests are based were committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that Oric is a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina," it said in a statement.

Oric was the ARBiH commander in the Srebrenica Muslim enclave between 1992 and when it was overrun by Bosnian-Serb forces in July, 1995 - an event that led to the

massacre of around 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian-Serb forces.

Oric managed to escape.

Convicted, acquitted on appeal

In 2006, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague sentenced Oric to two years in prison for failing to do enough to prevent the deaths of five Bosnian Serb detainees and the mistreatment of 11 others at the hands of his subordinates between 1992 and 1993. He was acquitted on appeal two years later due to a lack of sufficient evidence.

Serbia issued its warrant for Oric's arrest last year over the same alleged killings and mistreatment, and he was detained while trying to cross from France into Switzerland a fortnight ago. After his arrest, Belgrade filed an official extradition request with Bern. Bosnia, though, announced on Monday that it too had launched a war crimes investigation into Oric and subsequently filed its own request.

The case has heightened tensions between Sarajevo and Belgrade, just weeks ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. Prior to Thursday's announcement, the organizing committee for the July 11 commemoration ceremony, in which more than 130 newly identified victims are to be buried at the memorial center outside of Srebrenica, had threatened to cancel it unless Oric was released.

There was no immediate reaction from the organizing committee to the news that Oric would be extradited to Bosnia. There was also no immediate reaction from Belgrade.

pfd/jil (Reuters, AFP)

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