Muhamed Sacirbey

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Muhamed Sacirbey
Born (1956-07-20) 20 July 1956 (age 58)
Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
Nationality Bosnian/American
Alma mater Tulane University
Columbia University
Occupation Attorney, Investment Banker, Diplomat
Religion Sunni Islam
Spouse(s) Susan Sacirbey
Parents Nedžib Šaćirbegović
Aziza Šaćirbegović

Muhamed Sacirbey (born 20 July 1956) is a Bosnian American lawyer, businessman and diplomat. Sacirbey rose to prominence in the 1990s when Bosnia and Herzegovina appointed him to be its ambassador to the United Nations. Sacirbey also served briefly as the Bosnian foreign minister.

Early life[edit]

Muhamed Sacirbey was born Muhamed Šaćirbegović in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina which was then a part of Yugoslavia. Both of Sacirbey's parents were doctors. His father is Nedžib Šaćirbegović (born 1926), a friend of Alija Izetbegović, the first president of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Izetbegović and Sacirbey were imprisoned for opposing the communist government of SFR Yugoslavia following World War II.

In 1963, the family left SFY Yugoslavia due to his father's and mother's anti-communist politics (both had spent time in prison for their activities) and lived for a while in Turkey and Libya before settling in the United States in 1967. The Šaćirbegović family lived in Parma, Ohio a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio and became naturalized citizens in 1973. It was at this point that the family name was changed to Sacirbey. Sacirbey attended Valley Forge High School in Parma Heights, Ohio. "Mo" was elected student council representative even before he became US citizen, became a highly acclaimed football player as well as academically recognized - he was accepted to Harvard among other highly acclaimed universities.

Sacirbey attended Tulane University in New Orleans on a football scholarship and subsequently received a law degree from Tulane Law School and an MBA at Columbia Business School.[1] Sacirbey served as legal counsel to Standard & Poor's. Most of Sacirbey's professional career was spent as an investment banker on Wall Street.

Sacirbey has a younger brother Omar, who is a journalist in Boston.[2] In the 1990s their mother Aziza had a street named after her in Sarajevo.

Bosnian War[edit]

When the Bosnian War began in April 1992, Sacirbey was asked to assist the fledgling state gain admission to the United Nations. He became Bosnia's first ambassador to the United Nations. He began his term on 22 May 1992, the day that Bosnia and Herzegovina was admitted to the UN. During the war, he made many impassioned pleas for the lifting of the arms embargo against the Bosnian government and made repeated calls for the UN to protect the so-called safe areas from indiscriminate attacks. He traveled the world in a bid for support. Former President Bill Clinton, who in private referred to him as "Ambassador Mo" wrote of Sacirbey in his book "My Life": "Holbrooke and his team landed in the Croatian coastal city of Split, where they briefed the Bosnian foreign minister, Muhamed Sacirbey, on our plans. Sacirbey was the eloquent public face of Bosnia on American television, a handsome, fit man who, as a student in the United States had been a starting football player at Tulane University. He had long sought greater American involvement in his beleaguered nation and was glad the hour had finally come."

In May 1995 the foreign minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Irfan Ljubijankić was assassinated. Sacirbey was appointed to replace him for a brief period. Sacirbey also had become Bosnia's Agent before the International Court of Justice leading the country's genocide case against Serbia/Montenegro from outset in 1993 to 2001. Sacirbey also was instrumental in seeing the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and was informal representative as well as witness many years later from 2003 to 2009.

In November 1995, he accompanied the Bosnian delegation to the peace negotiations in Dayton, Ohio. The settlement came to be known as the Dayton Accords. During the talks Sacirbey actually delivered his resignation as Foreign Minister to protest what he perceived as accommodation of Serbia's strongman Slobodan Milosevic and legitimization of ethnic cleansing. Subsequently, Sacirbey has alleged that a "yellow light" had been given to Milosevic by US and European representatives to overrun the UN and NATO protected "safe areas" of Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde. He has testified to such effect before the ICTY.

Sacirbey also represented Bosnia to the Rome negotiations on the International Criminal Court (ICC), and after successfully working to incorporate "gender based" crimes and eliminate the death penalty (with an accomplished team of young jurists incorporated into his delegation, was subsequent signatory on the Rome Treaty. Sacirbey had been an advocate and active in the establishment of the ICC and became Vice-Chair of the Prep Committee on the ICC.

Legal difficulties[edit]

After the war, Sacirbey continued to serve as ambassador to the UN until late 2000. Upon leaving this position, rumors of financial irregularities in the BiH UN mission began to circulate. In 2001, the BiH government began to investigate Sacirbey on suspicion "of abuse of office" for purportedly expending funds for purposes not authorized including Bosnia"s "genocide case" against Serbia/Montenegro before the International Court of Justice.

Sacirbey denied any improper use of funds and said the entire affair was fabricated by political opponents in Bosnia and the United States. He also stated he spent up to $800,000 of his own money to cover Bosnia's diplomatic expenses. although there was no indictment, formal charges or even formal investigation, on 29 January 2002 the BiH government formally asked the US to extradite Sacirbey. Sacirbey had offered to deliver himself should such be requested. However, he was arrested on 25 March 2003 at his home in Staten Island. Sacirbey spent the next sixteen months at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York. He was released on 27 July 2004 on $6 million bail, and the recommendation of the Bosnian Prime Minister who referred to Sacirbey as an honorable person, whether or not allegations of abuse of office may have been accurate.[3]

Sacirbey from outset contended that the US Government was dictating the extradition request upon obedient Bosnian authorities, including misrepresenting the status of any "investigation" in Bosnia or alleged abuse of office. On 19 January 2005 he was certified by a federal magistrate in New York as extraditable. Sacirbey appealed his certification by filing a habeas corpus petition on 21 March 2005 before a federal district judge. In September 2006, the district judge denied his petition for habeas corpus relief and ruled that he was extraditable. Sacirbey appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

On 9 December 2009 Appeals court ruled that Sacirbey could not be extradited. Further, the Court cited Sacirbey's exemplary service and questionable political circumstances of the case. Finally, the Court concluded that the US Government had no obligation to extradite Sacirbey, should not have pursued the matter in the first place and on basis of evidence/case presented not to repeat the mistake. [4]

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