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Friday, 14 January, 2000, 13:05 GMT
Analysis: Big fish still at large

Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic At large: Radovan Karadzic, left, and Ratko Mladic

By regional analyst Gabriel Partos

It was in 1993 that the United Nations set up the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, but it took three years before the court got down to the business of meting out justice.

The initial delays were due to lack of resources - and most importantly, to a failure to apprehend indictees while the war in Bosnia was still raging.

Since 1996 the Tribunal has convicted 13 defendants out of the 34 individuals who are now in its custody - two others are free on bail.

A further 31 publicly indicted war criminals remain at liberty - and the Tribunal's rules bar it from trying these individuals in their absence.

Serbia remains a safe haven for war crimes suspects who have been charged over crimes committed in Croatia and Bosnia
With the exception of the Bosnian Croat wartime general, Tihomir Blaskic, who is awaiting the verdict in his case, all those tried so far, including the five Bosnian Croats who were found guilty today, were relatively low down the chain of command - small fry compared to the politicians and generals who remain at large.

The best known of those still in hiding are the Bosnian Serbs' wartime political and military leaders, Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, who were indicted five years ago.

Even more important is the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, who along with four of his top officials, was charged with war crimes against the Kosovar Albanians nine months ago during the Kosovo fighting.

None of those indicted on account of the Kosovo conflict and living in Serbia have been apprehended; and it looks highly unlikely that they would either surrender to the Tribunal or be extradited while Mr Milosevic remains in power.

Slobodan Milosevic President Slobodan Milosevic was charged last year
Serbia also remains a safe haven for war crimes suspects who have been charged over crimes committed in Croatia and Bosnia.

Yugoslavia's refusal to co-operate with The Hague Tribunal has been consistent over the years. By contrast, Croatia has been forced under international pressure to be more accommodating.

Zagreb has either extradited or put pressure on Bosnian Croat war crimes suspects to surrender themselves to the Tribunal.

But until now Croatia - under the late President Franjo Tudjman - has refused to recognise The Hague's jurisdiction over matters relating to the Croatian military offensives in 1995 that put an end to Serb-controlled areas in the country.

Now with a new government - not burdened by responsibility for those events - about to take office, it is expected that Zagreb's greater willingness to open up to the world will also include more intense co-operation with The Hague.


Even in Bosnia, where the international peacekeeping force, S-For, has authority to apprehend suspected war criminals, concern over possible bloodshed has prevented the arrest of Mr Karadzic.

He is still believed to be in hiding somewhere in the Bosnian Serb republic - even though the pro-Western Bosnian Serb Prime Minister, Milorad Dodik, is now showing greater willingness to carry out his entity's government's obligations on war criminals.

Meanwhile, S-For has taken a more active stance in recent months, and it has arrested two Bosnian Serb generals as well as a former Bosnian Serb deputy prime minister.

Their trials are expected to go some way towards satisfying those who believe that it is more important to punish senior commanders who masterminded ethnic cleansing than to deal with the perpetrators of individual crimes however terrible these may be.

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See also:
14 Jan 00 |  Europe
Croat soldiers guilty of war crimes
14 Jan 00 |  Europe
Flashback: The Ahmici massacre
18 Dec 97 |  World
Two years after Dayton
13 Jan 00 |  Europe
UN slams Bosnian leadership
02 Aug 99 |  Europe
Nato grabs war crimes suspect
04 Jan 00 |  Europe
Croatia votes for change

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