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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Bosnian general denies war crimes
General Halilovic at The Hague
General Halilovic denied the charge of murder
By Geraldine Coughlan in The Hague

The former commander-in-chief of Bosnia's Muslim army has pleaded not guilty to the mass killing of Bosnian Croat civilians in 1993.

General Sefer Halilovic was making his first appearance the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague since he surrendered himself on Tuesday.

Now a minister in the Bosnian Government the general is the highest-ranking Bosnian Muslim officer to be indicted by the tribunal.

He is accused of responsibility for the killings of Bosnian Croat civilians and a prisoner of war, which are alleged to have been carried out by his troops.

Trail of blood

General Halilovic was in command of the Neretva-93 military operation, during which more than 60 Bosnian Croat villagers were massacred in attacks on Grabovica and Uzdol in southern Bosnia.

Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte
Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte greeted the general at his appearance
The indictment charges him with one count of murder and alleges that General Halilovic did not do enough to prevent these killings or carry out a proper investigation.

But his lawyer claims there is proof that his client did order an investigation into the Grabovica massacre.

The recent indictments against Muslim army officers have been welcomed by Bosnian Serb leaders who say the tribunal is now applying the same criteria to all war-crime suspects regardless of their nationality.

Officials in the Bosnian Croat Federation are urging the Bosnian Serb Republic - the other entity that makes up post-war Bosnia - to start co-operating with the tribunal.

They have called for the arrest of the two most wanted suspects, the Bosnian Serb wartime leader, Radovan Karadzic, and his military commander, Ratko Mladic.

See also:

15 Nov 00 | Europe
Bosnia: The legacy of war
11 Jan 01 | Europe
Analysis: Plavsic's surrender
29 Aug 01 | Europe
Plavsic wins temporary release
09 Aug 01 | Europe
Bosnian Muslims deny war crimes
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