December 12, 2016 / 11:54 AM / a year ago

Serbia starts trial over Srebrenica massacre, court adjourns

BELGRADE (Reuters) - A Serbian court adjourned the long-awaited trial on Monday of eight former Bosnian Serb policemen charged with taking part in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, after defence lawyers demanded the replacement of a three-judge panel, the Tanjug news agency said.

Muslim effendi sits near coffins of his relatives, who are newly identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, which are lined up for a joint burial in Potocari near Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina July 11, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Files

The eight men were arrested in Serbia last year, the first such case involving people alleged to have directly taken part in the 1995 killing of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the then UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica, Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two.

The trial at the Belgrade-based War Crimes Court is seen as a test for Serbia’s willingess to face its wartime past and attrocities committed during the bloody collapse of the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1999.

As well as the replacement of the judges, defence lawyers demanded that the identities of protected witnesses be revealed. The presiding judge ordered an adjournment and set the ruling on the motion for Tuesday, the report said.

Serbia must punish war criminals to speed up its European Union membership bid. In 2008, it arrested Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and three years later his military commander Ratko Mladic, and handed them over to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Both had been on the run for more than a decade.

In 2007, a Serbian court convicted four members of the Serbian paramilitary unit, the Scorpions, who videotaped themselves killing six Bosniak youths around the same time as Srebrenica massacre unfolded. The court at the time said there was no evidence to directly link the two events.

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Georgina Prodhan

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