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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 February 2006, 12:33 GMT
War crimes and candidates
On Sunday 26 February 2006 Andrew Marr interviewed Paddy Ashdown, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Paddy Ashdown
Paddy Ashdown, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

ANDREW MARR: Now, the civil war which tore Yugoslavia apart ended ten years ago but there is an awful lot of unfinished business.

Many of the perpetrators of the worst war crimes are still at large.

Rumour reports that one alleged mass killer, General Ratko Mladic is on the verge of being seized and sent to The Hague but why have the authorities been unable, or maybe unwilling, to apprehend these murderers.

Lord Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, has spent the past four years as High Representative of Bosnia, which is something akin to a colonial governor.

He has just finished his term and he's finally back at his home in Somerset. Good morning Lord Ashdown. Thank you for joining me

LORD ASHDOWN: Good morning Andrew Marr. Paddy - Paddy will do very nicely thank you.

ANDREW MARR: I'm delighted to hear that Paddy. Can you, can you help us at all on this extraordinary will-he, won't-he, be apprehended story regarding Ratko Mladic, one of the worst of the worst really in that civil war. Do you think he's going to be lifted?

LORD ASHDOWN: Yes I do. One of the worst of the worst is the right description - the architect of Srebrenica and of so much else in that appalling five years of blood-letting. Andrew, let me first of all just correct one of your introductory sentences - there isn't so much unfinished work yet to do. In fact, what is astonishing, is that the place has made so much progress in such little time. I mean in the ten years since that war Bosnia and Herzegovina has made more progress than Northern Ireland in 35, despite the fact it's come from a much worse past.

Actually there's very little unfinished business to do - we've made a state there, this is arguably the world's first large scale successful peace stabilisation mission, and we need some more of those. But one of the pieces of unfinished business - you were right, and it isn't finished until they're in jail, until they're being brought to justice - is the fact that the two primary architects of Bosnia's horrors, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic are still at large. Now, two points for you first if I may.

The first is that it's wrong to say there's been no progress on war criminals, as of the first of January last year, the Serbs had arrested not a single war criminal, not a single one of those Hague indictees has been passed to The Hague, as a result of the immense pressure we've put on, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 11 of Karadzic and Mladic's primary colleagues, their most senior generals, their most senior partners in these terrible crimes are now in The Hague, transferred there at last by the Serbs.


LORD ASHDOWN: Secondly, why hasn't this been done before now? Well the answer is because the Serbs refused to cooperate until the first of January last year.

Neither Belgrade, nor the capital of the Serb part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Banja Luka - as I said earlier on - had arrested a single war criminal, had cooperated with Nato in any way. And the result was that they had not been caught because the very authorities that should have been delivering them to justice were in fact protecting them.


LORD ASHDOWN: Now we've broken that barrier of protectionism so I'm very confident that they will end up in The Hague.

ANDREW MARR: Let me just throw back a couple of thoughts about that. First of all, although you've created a political structure, absolutely, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, what about civil society? Is it not the case that this is really a segregated land still, where the different communities -


ANDREW MARR: - are living side by side but not properly integrated? A lot of people say that on education and all these other areas, it's not properly a single country.

LORD ASHDOWN: Well that's true, there's some way to go there yet, but again make some comparisons here, Andrew, before we start pointing the finger of accusation at Bosnia and Herzegovina. They're not properly integrated in Northern Ireland, 35 years after I marched as a young soldier into my own home city in Belfast to see the place being burnt to the ground and the Catholics being driven out of the Catholic areas.

Now in Bosnia and Herzegovina, only ten years after a war in which a quarter of a million died and half the country were driven from their homes, you now have a single government, you now have a million refugees, for the first time in history, refugees have returned home to the place from which they were driven in blood and horror only ten years ago. Even Srebrenica now has a Muslim majority, back living in Srebrenica - they're all women, because all the men have been killed, but they're there.

The Serbs are all back in Vukovar from which they were driven to the last man and woman by the Croat operation storm. So a miracle has happened here. Of course there's a long way to go - I mean how can you expect people to live in love and amity who were trying to destroy each other ten years ago. In many places in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it's true to say they're cohabiting, not yet cooperating, but cohabiting is the first stage to cooperation.

And if you measure Bosnia and Herzegovina's track towards peace, against any other country's move from terrible war to peace, including our own Northern Ireland, they've moved further and faster than any others. This journey now has only to be completed, it is now definitely on its way to a successful conclusion.

ANDREW MARR: What about looking over the border at Serbia, which does seem to be a country really with some serious decisions to take about where it goes - does it hand over people like Mladic? Is it going to stay together as a country, does it want to be inside the European Union? Big tough questions for Balkans isn't there?

LORD ASHDOWN: Very tough questions, but that's the reason why things have moved so fast. Compare the Balkans with Iraq and there's one very, very clear and hugely helpful advantage we have in bringing the Balkans to peace and that is that every person in every corner, from every ethnicity, from every political party, has one ambition and that is to join what they regard - rightly in my view - as their homeland in Europe.

So the destination is one in which the European, the international community and the local community all agree. So why now has Serbia moved to, against Mladic, against Karadzic, moved those 11 senior colleagues to The Hague? The answer is because they know that is necessary in order to join the European Union and that's what they want to do and that's the single unifying factor that enables us to move these countries towards peace.

ANDREW MARR: Sure. Can I ask you about the destination of the Liberal Democrats. You are a supporter of Menzies Campbell in the leadership contest, that continues and will be resolved in the coming week, but what about where the party should position itself? That seems to me as it's always been one of the biggest questions of all.

LORD ASHDOWN: Yeah it is a question that's very, very tough for the party now. I think it is going to be quite difficult for the party. As you see both Blair on the one hand, he's been doing that for a long time of course, which is one of the reasons why we worked together in the 1990s, in the late 1990s, trying to position himself on the Liberal ground and now Cameron trying to do so as well.

But here's our advantage, you know, we don't have to change our position. Labour has had to change its position, it needed Blair to move it away from socialism. The Tories were so awful for so long that they had to choose somebody who would make them look less awful, and what's he done? Tried to move onto the Liberal ground. We're the owners of that. We're the people who can occupy it most effectively.

ANDREW MARR: Sure. Menzies Campbell, as you know, is a friend, or close travelling companion of Gordon Brown, in a physical - they're up and down from Edinburgh together - I'm just wondering -

LORD ASHDOWN: In a physical not metaphorical way.

ANDREW MARR: Well I'm just wondering actually, do you think there's any chance of seeing it change back towards the sort of cohabitation or cooperation that you oversaw in your day, between Labour and the Liberal Democrats?

LORD ASHDOWN: No. Parties do things that are in their interest but the truth is that the situation is completely different from my day. I mean you would be mad if you were to follow in changed circumstances the same policy as we had nearly ten years ago. No I don't think there's any possibility.

Menzies is doing what is the right thing, he's laid out his stall very clearly - and I suspect the others in the party agree with that - which is the task of the next election is to maximise our votes and then decide how you play your hand. The hand that I had to play in 1997, against a discredited Tory Party that everybody wanted to remove, was an entirely different hand from the hand of the next leader of the party, whoever that should be, has to play.


LORD ASHDOWN: I mean what I think Menzies advantages are -

ANDREW MARR: I'm sorry, if I could just interrupt you for a second and ask you about the other guy, Chris Huhne, who is up at the top of the opinion polls and the other person that the bookies seem to think might well snatch the crowd at the end? You must know him from European days and so on. What do you make of him, has he been accepted in ...

LORD ASHDOWN: Well the - I have a very high regard for, for Chris. Look, Andrew, you know the Lib-Dems pretty well, you've been close to them for a very long time; you know the Lib-Dems don't like being told -

ANDREW MARR: Only physically. Only physically.

ANDREW MARR: - it may well be that 80, well 80 of the Parliamentarians, you know, the most senior ones to the newest ones, from oldest to the brightest, are supporting Menzies Campbell. But Chris Huhne is a man of exceptional ability, he's one of the brightest of the new cohort of MPs who came in, you know, Nick Clegg, David Laws, there are about five or six of them, extremely bright new MPs, I think the best of the new intake in any political party in Britain and Chris Huhne is one of the very best of those. So of course he'd make a great leader.

ANDREW MARR: Paddy Ashdown, Lord Ashdown - thank you very much indeed.

LORD ASHDOWN: But I think Menzies will be a better one.

ANDREW MARR: All right. Thanks a lot, goodbye.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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