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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 December, 2003, 15:46 GMT
'Brutal crimes' of Bosnia Muslims
General Enver Hadzihasanovic
Hadzihasanovic is most senior Bosnian Muslim soldier on trial
Bosnian Muslims committed war crimes including a ritual beheading, the Hague tribunal was told at the start of a landmark trial.

Two ex-army commanders are the first senior Bosnian Muslims to appear before the tribunal.

They are charged with killing at least 200 Bosnian Croat and Serb civilians in central Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1993.

Ex-General Enver Hadzihasanovic, 53, and Colonel Amir Kubura, 39, deny charges including murder.

This trial...will show war crimes were committed by both sides of the conflict
Ekkehard Withopf
A third man named in the original indictment, General Mehmed Alagic, died in March this year.

Prosecutors claim most of the killings were carried out by foreign Muslim fighters, known as mujahideen, but the accused failed to prevent the deaths.

Prosecutors say some prisoners were forced to dig trenches under fire or were used as human shields.

"This trial...will show war crimes were committed by both sides of the conflict in central Bosnia," said prosecutor Ekkehard Withopf.

"This trial will give the world a more complete picture of the war in Bosnia."

Murder, cruel treatment
Wanton destruction, plunder of public or private property
Wilful destruction of religious institutions
Mr Withopf said one victim had suffered "a beheading that can only be described as a ritual beheading".

The court was shown photographs of murdered Croats, and was told that many victims were brutally beaten to unconsciousness or death.

"They failed to prevent war crimes committed by their subordinates. They failed to prevent them," said Mr Withopf.

Bias claims

Serbs see the international tribunal at The Hague as a political court with anti-Serb bias.

Observers say putting more high-profile Bosnian Muslims in the dock will do little to change this sentiment.

Colonel Amir Kubura
Kubura led the controversial 7th Muslim Brigade
The most senior Bosnian Muslim investigated by the tribunal was the country's war-time leader Alija Izetbegovic, who died last month.

The investigation was made public on the day of his funeral - 22 October 2003.

The indictment against the army commanders charges them with failing to stop their subordinates when they attacked towns and villages, killing Croat and Serb civilians as well as Croatian soldiers who had surrendered.

"They knew, or had reason to know, that the forces under their command had committed or were going to commit these acts," the indictment says.

Izetbegovic led the government during the war of the early 1990s
"They did not take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent them or punish those who committed them."

Mr Hadzihasanovic and Mr Kubura appeared as witnesses in the trial of the Croatian General, Tihomir Blaskic, who received a 45-year jail term for war crimes.

However, they are not the first Muslims to go on trial at the tribunal.

Two camp commanders were sentenced in 1998 for crimes against Serbs.

Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic have been indicted by the tribunal for war crimes but remain at large.

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is on trial for alleged war crimes offences in Bosnia and elsewhere.

The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan
"This trial is the first of high ranking Bosnian Muslim officers"

Bosnian Muslims deny war crimes
09 Aug 01  |  Europe
Bosnia camp guard jailed
28 Oct 03  |  Europe
Bosnia's war legacy
03 Apr 02  |  Crossing Continents

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