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Illegal Bosnia church is torn down after decades-long legal battle

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By Michael Daventry  & AP
Illegal Bosnia church is torn down after decades-long legal battle
Copyright  Sladjan Vasic/AP   -  

Bulldozers have demolished a Serbian Orthodox church in a Bosnian village, two decades after it was constructed illegally on land owned by a Bosniac Muslim woman.

The building was erected shortly after Fata Orlovic and her family were expelled from their village during the Bosnian Wars.

The long-running case ended after the European Court of Human Rights ruled in her favour in 2019.

"I won," Orlovic said as she watched the building being torn down.

"I won in this story, but I am exhausted. I was admitted to hospital 23 times, but I survived, and I won. I won my property back."

Orlovic's husband was among some 8,000 Bosniac men and boys murdered by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica in 1995.

It was Europe's only genocide since the Second World War.

Bosnia remains deeply ethnically divided long after the war ended in 1995 in a US-brokered peace agreement.

More than 100,000 people were killed in the conflict and millions had to flee their homes.

When the family returned home to the village of Konjević Polje near Bratunac, in the northeast of the country, they found the church built in their land.

Repeated demands for its removal were ignored for many years.

In 2000, Orlovic launched legal proceedings against the Republika Srpska, which runs the Serb parts of Bosnia.

The authorities said they will now rebuild the church elsewhere in the village.

Zlatka Basic, Orlovic's daughter, said the family was delighted: "We were so happy when they started (to demolish the structure) after 25 years. She was so happy, and we are happy too."

Orlovic's lawyer Rusmir Karkin told Bosnian media that he expected a quick removal of the debris from Orlovic's land.

Video editor • Michael Daventry