Mon, Feb 28, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Hague war crimes tribunal issues final charges

JUSTICE The court has indicted eight suspected war criminals from the former Yugoslavia as it winds up its work, but two of the most wanted men are still free

AFP , THE HAGUE

Twelve years after it was set up to try Balkan war criminals, the special UN tribunal in The Hague is launching its final round of charges against major suspects in the the carnage of the 1990s.

In the space of the past week the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has issued indictments against four former generals, three Serbs and a Bosnian Muslim.

They are among the last to be charged by the tribunal, a temporary panel set up in 1993 by the UN to try cases of crimes committed following the break-up of former Yugoslavia and the wars in its one-time regions Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia.

Meanwhile the two most wanted men are still on the run.

Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, respectively the Bosnian Serb political and military leaders, were indicted in 1995 on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for their alleged leading role in the campaign of ethnic cleansing against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from wide areas of Bosnia during the 1992-95 war that left over 200,000 people dead.

Following a decision by the UN Security Council, the court prosecutor Carla Del Ponte wound up investigations at the end of last year and has now prepared final indictments so that trials can be completed at the latest by 2010.

This month she said there remained six indictments against 10 suspects. The names of four were made public during the past week.

Two former generals in the Bosnian Serb army, Milan Gvero and Radivoje Miletic, are charged with murder, expulsion and cruel treatment of Bosnia's Muslim population in the enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa.

Nearly 8,000 Muslims were killed by Bosnian Serb forces when Srebrenica was taken in July 1995, in the worst massacre in Europe since the end of World War II.

Zdravko Tolimir, a former general in Bosnian Serb army, also appears in this indictment.

Rasim Delic, who was formerly a general in the Bosnian Muslim forces, is charged with war crimes over the murder of several dozen Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs committed by subordinates.

Like other indicted Muslims, Delic decided to give himself up to the court for trial.

Gvero and Miletic, who were both living in Serbia, likewise chose to give themselves up.

The most high-profile defendant already on trial in The Hague is the former president of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic.

But 17 others, including three facing some of the most serious charges, are still fugitives from justice.

They include Karadzic and Mladic, whose indictments specifically mention the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the 44-month siege of Sarajevo and the establishment of a network of camps and detention units for non-Serb civilians in Bosnia.

The Serbian government in Belgrade has come under international pressure to cooperate with the Hague tribunal over handing over fugitives.

The US recently reduced the aid it has been giving to Serbia-Montenegro, and the EU has urged substantial progress by the end of next month.

But the Serbian authorities have so far refused to budge in the case of Mladic, understood to be in hiding in Serbia.

Karadzic, alleged to have been one of the masterminds behind the Srebrenica genocide, is hiding out in the Serbian area of Bosnia despite the presence of an international military force there for the last 10 years.

A third fugitive is Croat former general Ante Gotovina, in hiding since 2001 after the Hague court indicted him for killing at least 150 ethnic Serbs in "Operation Storm," a military sweep in rebel-held parts of Croatia. He faces charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

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