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Last Updated: Friday, 29 April, 2005, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
Analysis: Serb surrender surge
General Vladimir Lazarevic (left) and General Nebojsa Pavkovic (right)
The government has put pressure on the accused generals
The BBC's Nick Hawton in Sarajevo examines why there has been a surge of Serb war crimes suspects surrendering to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague - some after years on the run.

Earlier this week, General Nebojsa Pavkovic, a former chief of staff in the old Yugoslav Army, packed his bags, drove to Belgrade airport and got on a plane to travel to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

No shots were fired. No men in black balaclavas descended from the sky to arrest him. He simply decided to surrender and face his accusers in The Hague, who have indicted him for murder, rape and the forced deportation of 800,000 Albanians in Kosovo in 1999.

He is not the only one to have made such a decision. About 24 individuals have done the same during the past few months. The vast majority are Serbs accused of committing crimes in Bosnia during the 1990s.

Clear message

It all began last October, when Ljubisa Beara, accused of genocide for his role in the Srebrenica massacre, was transferred to The Hague. It marked a watershed because, for the first time, the Serbian government broke its policy of only supporting the voluntary surrender of war crimes suspects.

The BBC has been told by sources close to the Serbian government that Mr Beara's house was surrounded by Serbian police and he was told to either surrender or be arrested.

They're not going to be able to join the EU or Nato... until they hand in all these war criminals and that pressure is really, really beginning to tell
General David Leakey

"After Beara, all of them realised there was no more hiding. And the government would fulfil all its [international] obligations.

"The basic thing was that the government sent a clear message that it would no longer tolerate Hague indictees," says Rasim Ljajic, the Serbia and Montenegro government minister responsible for relations with The Hague.

In the following months, indictee after indictee either contacted the Serbian government directly or sent emissaries in their place, trying to negotiate as good a deal as possible with the government.

Those accused were offered guarantees by the Serbian government so they could be released on bail. Financial support, amounting to 200 euros (135) a month, was offered to them and their families, as well as air tickets and spending money for trips to The Hague.

Politicians sacked

The Serbian government did not announce the new policy. But why had it decided to get tougher?

Bosnian Serb wartime leaders Radovan Karadzic (left) and Ratko Mladic
Radovan Karadzic (left) and Ratko Mladic remain top of the wanted list
"The international community has been putting huge pressure on the governments," says General David Leakey, the head of EU peacekeepers in neighbouring Bosnia.

"They're not going to be able to join the EU or Nato, which is where their stability and future prosperity lie, until they hand in all these war criminals and that pressure is really, really beginning to tell."

During the previous 12 months, the United States withheld $100m (52m or 77m euros) worth of loans for Serbia.

Peacekeepers in Bosnia raided and closed down Bosnian Serb military bases. The chief international envoy to Bosnia, Lord Ashdown, used his wide-ranging powers to sack dozens of politicians and policemen allegedly protecting war crimes suspects.

Most recently, Croatia's bid to join the EU was blocked for its failure to fully co-operate with the tribunal.

Money worries

Underpinning the international pressure and the change in policy of the Serbian government has been a change in Serbian public opinion.

"Economically, the situation is very, very bad. People just care about surviving, pure surviving," says Igor Gaic, the founder and editor of Novi Reporter, an independent political magazine based in Bosnia.

He says economic pressures mean that people have more important things on their minds than supporting those accused of war crimes.

The big question now is whether the momentum that has been built up will lead to the eventual surrender or arrest of The Hague's two most wanted, the former Bosnian Serb leaders, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. No one is holding their breath.

Serb war suspect flies to Hague
25 Apr 05 |  Europe
Serb ex-police chief surrenders
11 Mar 05 |  Europe

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