APNewsBreak: Srebrenica massacre suspects arrested

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Serbia Arrests 7 Suspects in 1995 Srebrenica Massacre

SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) - Prosecutors on Wednesday made Serbia's first arrests of people suspected of the Srebrenica massacre killings, The Associated Press has learned. It is a milestone in healing the wounds of Europe's worst civilian slaughter since World War II.

Serbian police arrested seven men accused of taking part in the slaughter of over 1,000 Muslims at a warehouse on the outskirts of Srebrenica, a joint team of Serbian and Bosnian prosecutors told the AP. Altogether, over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed in the eastern Bosnian enclave by the Serbs in 1995 - the only atrocity in Europe to be labeled genocide by the United Nations since World War II.

The prosecutors said they were searching for more suspects in Serbia and in neighboring countries.

Serbia in the past has put on trial men who took a group of prisoners away from Srebrenica to be killed. And in 2011 it arrested Ratko Mladic - the warlord who masterminded the slaughter - and sent him to an international criminal court in The Hague, Netherlands. But Wednesday's arrests were Serbia's first attempt to bring to justice men who got their hands bloody in the killing machine known as the Srebrenica massacre 20 years ago this July.

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APNewsBreak: Srebrenica massacre suspects arrested
Participants in the "March of Peace" march through mountainous countryside near the village of Nezuk, 150 kms north east of Sarajevo,Bosnia, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. More than ten thousand people, including survivors of the Srebrenica massacre, started a 110-kilometer march from Nezuk to Srebrenica following the path along which Muslims fled Serb forces at Srebrenica 20 years ago. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
Participants in the "March of Peace" holding Bosnian war time flags, prepare to march at sunrise, near the village of Nezuk, 150 kms north east of Sarajevo,Bosnia, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. More than ten thousand people, including survivors of the Srebrenica massacre, started a 110-kilometer march from Nezuk to Srebrenica following the path along which Muslims fled Serb forces at Srebrenica 20 years ago. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
Serbian police officers guard members of the anti-war organization "Women in Black", holding a banner reading: " Srebrenica! We will never forget" as part of a protest in Belgrade, Serbia, Monday, July 6, 2015. Serbia on Saturday asked Russia to veto a British U.N. Security Council resolution that would call the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys during the Bosnian war in Srebrenica, genocide. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
In this photo taken, Saturday, June 27, 2015, Srebrenica massacre survivor Nedzad Avdic, 37, puts his hand to his head as he tells his tale of how he survived an execution by a firing squad at the industrial waste dam of "Red Lake", near the village of Petkovci, 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of Sarajevo.  He was 17 when he joined the other men who tried to flee through the woods. His group was hunted down by Serb soldiers and brought to the school for execution. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
A Bosnian Muslim woman offers a prayer during late night prayer for upcoming holy month of Ramadan, inside memorial room for Srebrenica massacre victims, at the memorial center Potocari, near Srebrenica, northeast of the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo on Wednesday, June, 17, 2015. Family members of the Srebrenica victims killed in July, 1995, will mark the first night of Ramadan at the memorial center Potocari, in front of the graves of killed Muslims from this small Bosnian town. Ramadan celebrations in Srebrenica are unlike anywhere else in the world. This is the only place where the living join the dead in prayer. Emotional evening ahead of first day of Ramadan gathers all Muslim returnees at the graveyard, paying respects to their dearest as the fasting begins. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
This photo taken on Saturday, March 7, 2015 in the memorial cemetery Potocari, outside Srebrenica, 150 kms northeast of Sarajevo shows the gravestone of Muriz Sinanovic. Sinanovic was among the 8,000 Muslim Bosniak men and boys killed in July 1995 Srebrenica massacre. He had been executed in a warehouse in the village of Kravice on the outskirts of Srebrenica. Prosecutors tell The Associated Press they have made Serbia's first arrests of people suspected of carrying out the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims, Europe's worst civilian slaughter since World War II. (AP Photo/Sulejman Omerbasic)
This photo taken on Saturday, March 7, 2015 shows a now abandoned warehouse where over 1,000 Muslim Bosniak men and boys had been killed in July 1995 in the village of Kravica on the outskirts of Srebrenica, 150 kms northeast of Sarajevo. Prosecutors tell The Associated Press they have made Serbia's first arrests of people suspected of carrying out the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims, Europe's worst civilian slaughter since World War II. (AP Photo/Sulejman Omerbasic)
This photo taken on Saturday, March 7, 2015 shows a now abandoned warehouse where over 1,000 Muslim Bosniak men and boys had been killed in July 1995 in the village of Kravica on the outskirts of Srebrenica, 150 kms northeast of Sarajevo. Prosecutors tell The Associated Press they have made Serbia's first arrests of people suspected of carrying out the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims, Europe's worst civilian slaughter since World War II. (AP Photo/Sulejman Omerbasic)
This photo taken on Saturday, March 7, 2015 shows a now abandoned warehouse where over 1,000 Muslim Bosniak men and boys had been killed in July 1995 in the village of Kravica on the outskirts of Srebrenica, 150 kms northeast of Sarajevo. Prosecutors tell The Associated Press they have made Serbia's first arrests of people suspected of carrying out the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims, Europe's worst civilian slaughter since World War II. (AP Photo/Sulejman Omerbasic)
This photo taken on Saturday, March 7, 2015 shows a now abandoned warehouse where over 1,000 Muslim Bosniak men and boys had been killed in July 1995 in the village of Kravica on the outskirts of Srebrenica, 150 kms northeast of Sarajevo. Prosecutors tell The Associated Press they have made Serbia's first arrests of people suspected of carrying out the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims, Europe's worst civilian slaughter since World War II. (AP Photo/Sulejman Omerbasic)
In this photo taken on Friday March 6, 2015 in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Muslim Bosniak woman Suhra Sinanovic shows a tobacco box and photos of her husband Muriz Sinanovic who had been killed in July 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Prosecutors tell The Associated Press they have made Serbia's first arrests of people suspected of carrying out the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims, Europe's worst civilian slaughter since World War II. (AP Photo/Sulejman Omerbasic)
A Bosnian Muslim woman cries near coffins during a memorial ceremony and funeral in Srebrenica, Bosnia, Friday, July 11, 2014. Thousands of people gathered at the Potocari Memorial Center for a memorial ceremony and funeral of 175 victims of Europe's worst massacre since World War II. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
A Bosnian Muslim man searches for the grave of his relative in Srebrenica, Bosnia, Friday, July 11, 2014. Thousands of people gathered at the Potocari Memorial Center for a memorial ceremony and funeral of 175 victims of Europe's worst massacre since World War II. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
Bosnian Muslim woman Senija Rizvanovic cries near the graves of her two sons in Srebrenica, Bosnia, Friday, July 11, 2014. The eastern, Muslim-majority town of Srebrenica was a U.N.-protected area besieged by Serb forces throughout Bosnia's 1992-95 war. But U.N. troops offered no resistance when the Serbs overran the town, rounding up the Muslims and killing the males. An international court later labeled the slayings as genocide. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
Bosnian Muslim people attend prayer during a funeral in Srebrenica, Bosnia on Friday July 11, 2014. The eastern, Muslim-majority town of Srebrenica was a U.N.-protected area besieged by Serb forces throughout Bosnia's 1992-95 war. But U.N. troops offered no resistance when the Serbs overran the town, rounding up the Muslims and killing the males. An international court later labeled the slayings as genocide. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
Bosnian Muslim people attend prayer during a funeral in Srebrenica, Bosnia on Friday July 11, 2014. The eastern, Muslim-majority town of Srebrenica was a U.N.-protected area besieged by Serb forces throughout Bosnia's 1992-95 war. But U.N. troops offered no resistance when the Serbs overran the town, rounding up the Muslims and killing the males. An international court later labeled the slayings as genocide. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
A Bosnian Muslim woman cries on a coffin in Srebrenica, Bosnia, Friday, July 11, 2014. Thousands of people gathered at the Potocari Memorial Center for a memorial ceremony and funeral of 175 victims of Europe's worst massacre since World War II. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
Ema Hasanovic, 5, a young Bosnian Muslim girl, pays her respects near to the coffin of her uncle, in the Memorial center in Potocari, 200 kms northeast of Sarajevo, on Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Hundreds of people turned out in Sarajevo's main street to pay their respects to 175 victims of the Srebrenica massacre — Europe's worst since World War II — as a truck carried their coffins to a final resting place. The remains of the men and boys, found in mass graves and identified through DNA analysis, will be buried in Srebrenica on Friday, the 19th anniversary of the massacre, next to 6,066 previously found victims. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
A Bosnian Muslim woman searches for the coffin of her relative, in the Memorial center in Potocari, 200 kms northeast of Sarajevo, on Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Hundreds of people turned out in Sarajevo's main street to pay their respects to 175 victims of the Srebrenica massacre — Europe's worst since World War II — as a truck carried their coffins to a final resting place. The remains of the men and boys, found in mass graves and identified through DNA analysis, will be buried in Srebrenica on Friday, the 19th anniversary of the massacre, next to 6,066 previously found victims. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
UNHCR goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie reacts during visit to memorial center of Potocari near eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica, 180 kms northeast of Sarajevo, on Friday, March 28, 2014. British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Hollywood star Angelina Jolie addressed a conference organized in Sarajevo by Bosnia's Defense Ministry on sexual violence in conflict. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
Bosnian woman Merima Nukic searches for her father's grave among gravestones during a funeral ceremony at the memorial center in Potocari, near Srebrenica, 160 kms east of Sarajevo, Bosnia, Thursday, July 11, 2013. People from around Bosnia and abroad have begun arriving in Srebrenica Thursday to commemorate 18th anniversary of the 1995 massacre and rebury recently identified victims exhumed from mass graves. The victims’ bodies are still being exhumed from mass graves in the area, where Serbs had dumped them in an attempt to cover up the crime. Identified victims are buried each year on the massacre’s anniversary at a memorial cemetery near Srebrenica. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
A Bosnian woman cries near the coffin of her relative during a funeral ceremony at the memorial center in Potocari, near Srebrenica, 160 kms east of Sarajevo, Bosnia, Thursday, July 11, 2013. People from around Bosnia and abroad have begun arriving in Srebrenica Thursday to commemorate 18th anniversary of the 1995 massacre and rebury recently identified victims exhumed from mass graves. The victims’ bodies are still being exhumed from mass graves in the area, where Serbs had dumped them in an attempt to cover up the crime. Identified victims are buried each year on the massacre’s anniversary at a memorial cemetery near Srebrenica. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
A Bosnian woman cries near the coffin of her relative during a funeral ceremony at the memorial center in Potocari, near Srebrenica, 160 kms east of Sarajevo, Bosnia, Thursday, July 11, 2013. People from around Bosnia and abroad have begun arriving in Srebrenica Thursday to commemorate 18th anniversary of the 1995 massacre and rebury recently identified victims exhumed from mass graves. The victims’ bodies are still being exhumed from mass graves in the area, where Serbs had dumped them in an attempt to cover up the crime. Identified victims are buried each year on the massacre’s anniversary at a memorial cemetery near Srebrenica. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
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"It is important to stress that this is the first time that our prosecutor's office is dealing with the mass killings of civilians and war prisoners in Srebrenica," Bruno Vekaric, the lead Serb prosecutor in the case told The Associated Press.

He said Serbia was approaching a key moment in confronting its past.

"We have never dealt with a crime of such proportions," said Vekaric, Serbia's deputy War Crimes Prosecutor. "It is very important for Serbia to take a clear position toward Srebrenica through a court process."

The biggest arrest in the sweep was Nedeljko Milidragovic, the commander dubbed "Nedjo the Butcher," who went on to become a successful businessman in Serbia, the AP has learned.

The collaboration by prosecutors from former wartime enemies Serbia and Bosnia - supported by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague - is the most important case of judicial teamwork helping to heal the festering wounds of the war.

The arrests follow a December sweep by the same team of prosecutors of 15 suspects in a separate wartime atrocity: a massacre that followed an abduction from a Bosnian train.

Many Serbs still view as heroes their wartime leaders - including Mladic and Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, who are on trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal - and believe they were victims of an elaborate Western plot.

That makes the current campaign to detain the triggermen deeply sensitive. Serbia's conservative government is allowing the prosecutions to move forward in part because it's eager to join the European Union.

Thousands Mourn Srebrenica Massacre Victims

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