Thu, Jul 01, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Bosnian Serb officials sacked over suspects

DERELICTION OF DUTY Bosnia's peace overseer removed 60 officials for failing to arrest war-crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, prompting a walkout by parliamentarians

REUTERS , SARAJEVO AND UNITED NATIONS

Bosnia peace overseer Paddy Ashdown sacked 60 Bosnian Serb officials yesterday over their failure to arrest top war-crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic.

Those removed included Parliamentary Speaker Dragan Kalinic, leader of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) founded by Karadzic in 1990, and Interior Minister Zoran Djeric.

"I decided to remove these people from public and party positions," Ashdown told a news conference.

Ashdown has sweeping powers to remove officials seen as obstructing the peace process under the 1995 Dayton accord that ended Europe's worst conflict since World War II. More than 200,000 people died in the 1992-1995 war, most of them Muslims.

"It was Dragan Kalinic's responsibility as leader of the SDS to prevent fraud, abuse and criminality ... to ensure that the party founded by Radovan Karadzic was no longer financing him," Ashdown said.

Bosnia's Serb Republic has been under growing Western pressure to arrest Karadzic and other war crimes suspects still at large. Karadzic is said to be hiding in remote eastern Bosnia, protected by hardline loyalists.

Bosnian Serb officials insist they don't know the whereabouts of Karadzic, twice indicted by the Hague war crimes tribunal for genocide together with his military commander Ratko Mladic, who is believed to be in neighboring Serbia.

They are accused of involvement in the siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys after the fall of the eastern town of Srebrenica.

Chief UN war-crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said on Tuesday that Karadzic could be arrested as early as this week.

Kalinic, a wartime ally of Karadzic, confirmed he had been sacked.

"I was removed today by the High Representative," Kalinic told the parliament of the Serb Republic, one of Bosnia's two post-war entities. "I was removed because of Radovan Karadzic.

"This is the most brutal political purge ... because besides me many others will be removed," he said.

SDS members of parliament left the assembly in protest against the dismissal, saying they would not take part in its work until further notice.

ACCUSATION

UN court officials on Tuesday accused fugitives and their backers in the Balkans of trying to escape prosecution by waiting until international pressure brings an end to war-crime trials.

Carla del Ponte, the prosecutor of the tribunal on the former Yugoslavia, and Theodor Meron, the court's chief judge, told the UN Security Council a dire shortage of funds was seriously hindering work. Japan owes nearly half of the US$88 million in arrears.

The Hague-based war crimes tribunal and a second in Arusha, Tanzania, on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda are to complete probes by the end of this year, end trials by 2008 and close down before the end of 2010.

"An unintended consequence of the completion strategy is that fugitives and their protective networks are trying to buy time until 2008, in hopes of evading justice, as they believe the time to be tried in The Hague will soon expire," Del Ponte told the 15-nation council.

"It certainly appears that some in the former Yugoslavia think that, by hiding from arrest, they can `wait out' the tribunal until it goes away," Meron said.

The Bosnian Serb Republic, where Karadzic is hiding, has pledged to step up efforts to detain suspects. It hopes to join NATO's Partnership for Peace program next month.

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