ROANOKE, Va. — A former guard at the Rabic Prison Camp in Derventa Municipality of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War has been certified for extradition to Bosnia following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Almaz Nezirovic, 54, of Roanoke, Va., allegedly committed human rights abuses against Serb civilians detained at the camp. He is wanted in Bosnia to stand trial for committing war crimes against civilians between April and July 1992 during the Bosnian War. In April 1992, Nezirovic joined a mixed Croatian-Muslim paramilitary group in northern Bosnia, and became a prison guard. Bosnian officials charge that while serving as a prison guard, Nezirovic committed war crimes by beating, humiliating and traumatizing unarmed civilian prisoners, causing severe personal injury.
In 2009, ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center received information from the Bosnian Prosecutor's Office in Sarajevo about war criminals who had absconded. Thereafter, the center and HSI Washington special agents initiated an investigation after identifying and locating Nezirovic in Roanoke. In April 2010, HSI special agents identified and interviewed former prisoners of the Bosnian camp who had been severely beaten in 1992. The witness statements sufficed to obtain a criminal indictment in the Western District of Virginia.
On June 23, 2011, HSI Washington special agents arrested Nezirovic at his residence pursuant to a two-count indictment charging him with naturalization fraud. He admitted he had beaten prisoners at the camp. On April 19, 2012, he was indicted on a superseding six-count indictment for seeking and obtaining immigration benefits. He was subsequently taken into custody July 17, 2012, on a provisional arrest warrant pending the outcome of the extradition order.
In July 2012, the United States, on behalf of the government of Bosnia, filed a complaint to extradite Nezirovic pursuant to an extradition treaty between the two countries. The treaty has been in place since 1901 and the United Nations Convention Against Torture. On Sept. 16, after several hearings, the court found sufficient evidence to sustain the allegation and certified the extradition request to the Secretary of State. This ruling provides the legal basis for the Secretary of State to decide whether Nezirovic will be extradited to Bosnia to face war crimes charges.
"HSI will pursue war criminals like Nezrovic to ensure that justice is brought to bear for their atrocities," said HSI Acting Special Agent in Charge Scot Rittenberg. "HSI will aggressively investigate those who seek shelter from their crimes in the United States."
"Almaz Nezirovic stands charged with horrific acts of torture by the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina," said U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy. "Today's ruling moves this matter one step closer to ultimate resolution in that country. Mr. Nezirovic can now be subject to extradition and surrender to his home country, where he will stand trial for these offenses."
The investigation was conducted by HSI Washington and ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center along with the U.S. Department of Justice's Criminal Division and Office of International Affairs.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Wright.
HSI is committed to rooting out alleged human rights violators who seek a safe haven in the United States. ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center investigates human rights violators who try to evade justice by seeking shelter in the United States, including those who have participated in war crimes and acts of genocide, torture, the use of child soldiers and extrajudicial killings. These individuals may conceal their past to enter the country and attempt to blend into communities in the United States. Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to call the toll-free HSI Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or complete its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock. To learn more about assistance available to victims in these cases, the public should contact HSI's confidential victim-witness toll-free number at 1-866-872-4973. Tips may be provided anonymously.
Since fiscal year 2004, ICE has arrested more than 250 individuals for human rights-related violations under various criminal and immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders and physically removed more than 640 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Currently, HSI has approximately 140 active investigations and ICE is pursuing approximately 1,850 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from 97 different countries.
Over the last four years, ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center has issued more than 20,000 lookouts for people from more than 111 countries and stopped approximately 124 human rights violators or war crime suspects from entering the United States.