Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Serbia refuses to arrest war crime suspects - Irish Times Update

1 comment:

KosovaReport said...

Defying international pressure, Serbia is refusing to arrest four top suspects wanted by the UN war crimes tribunal.

Justice Minister Zoran Stojkovic said the arrest of the four Serb generals, indicted by the tribunal in The Hague, for war crimes allegedly committed by their troops in Kosovo in 1999, "would be dangerous for the country's stability."

"There are only two options regarding the generals: Either they surrender voluntarily, or they be tried" in Serbia-Montenegro, said Stojkovic, a member of Serbia's ruling conservative Democratic Party of Serbia.

The generals are former army chief of staff Nebojsa Pavkovichis former deputy, Vladimir Lazarevicand police generals Vlastimir Djordjevic and Sreten Lukic. Djordjevic is believed hiding in Russia, while the three others have lived openly in Serbia.

Serbia-Montenegro, the successor state to Yugoslavia, has been under mounting international pressure to arrest and extradite some 15 war crimes suspects to the UN tribunal. The US and the European Union have made future financial and political support conditional on Mladic's arrest.

Stojkovic's comments triggered criticism from one of the parties in the ruling coalition, the pro-Western G17 Plus, which warned that lack of cooperation with the UN court would block Serbia's integration into mainstream Europe.

"Co-operation with The Hague court is necessary, including fulfilling our international obligations," Ksenija Milivojevic, the G17 Plus spokeswoman said.

Serbia's conservative government has been reluctant to extradite the suspects because most Serbs consider the tribunal to be biased against them. Many still see the suspects as wartime heroes.

The minority Cabinet of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is also weary of extraditions because it depends on support from former President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party, which has conditioned its parliamentary backing on an end to arrests and hand overs.

Milosevic himself was extradited to The Hague court by a previous, reformist government in 2001.

A top Socialist official, Ivica Dacic, hailed Stojkovic's statement, reiterating that if any war crimes suspects do get arrested and handed over to The Hague, his party would withdraw its support for the government.