EU human rights official criticizes Serbia defense ministry

BELGRADE, Serbia — A top European human rights official on Wednesday sharply criticized Serbia's defense ministry for promoting a book that attempts to deny that Bosnian Serb forces carried out a wartime attack that killed 71 people in the Bosnian town of Tuzla in 1995.

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic said that "propagating falsehoods and disinformation in a post-war context is a dangerous exercise, one that seriously undermines all efforts towards durable peace and reconciliation."

Mijatovic says the "Tuzla Gate Staged Tragedy" book goes against the facts established by international and local courts.

Local human rights groups and Bosniak officials have also criticized the Serbian ministry over Tuesday's promotional event. The ministry in the past also has published books by ex-officers convicted of war crimes in the Yugoslav wars.

Bosnia has sentenced former Bosnian Serb army Gen. Novak Djukic to 20 years in prison for orchestrating the attack that also wounded scores of people, but he remains in Serbia.

Sefik Dzaferovic, the Bosniak member of Bosnia's multi-ethnic presidency, said Serbia is undermining relations with Bosnia by its "protection of a convicted war criminal, denial of his crime and by scorning the families of innocent young people he had killed."

Serbia backed the Bosnian Serbs against Bosniaks, who are mostly Muslims, and Croats during the 1992-95 war Bosnia that killed more than 100,000 people and left millions homeless.

"Instead of providing a public platform to propagate views that deny war crimes, political leaders and government representatives in Serbia must step up their work on fighting impunity for war related crimes, provide civilian war victims with effective reparations, and support reconciliation efforts in the region," Mijatovic said.

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