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Serbia Delivers Witnesses to Bosnia War Crimes Tribunal

March 31, 1996|From Times Wire Services

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Serbia has handed over to a U.N. war crimes tribunal two witnesses to the alleged slaughter of thousands of unarmed Muslim men when Bosnian Serbs overwhelmed the "safe area" of Srebrenica.

The United Nations' International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia said Saturday that the witnesses were taken into custody in The Hague, where the court sits.

Meanwhile, Croatia said Bosnian Croat Gen. Tihomir Blaskic will voluntarily surrender to U.N. prosecutors Monday to face war crimes charges.

The steps, both taken under U.S. pressure, represented a breakthrough for the war crimes court, which has struggled to obtain cooperation from the former warring sides in Bosnia.

The witnesses provided by Serbia were former Bosnian Serb Army soldiers Drazen Erdemovic and Radoslav Kremenovic, who told the French newspaper Figaro that they took part in the alleged Srebrenica massacre in July 1995.

Erdemovic, a Croat, claimed that he was forced to take part in the killing of 1,200 Muslim men, whose bodies were buried in mass graves, or be shot himself.

The court said Erdemovic and Kremenovic, a Bosnian Serb, were being held as witnesses, but it did not rule out their facing charges later.

Between 3,000 and 8,000 Srebrenica men are believed to have been killed to prevent them rejoining Bosnian government forces elsewhere.

Blaskic's defenders say that he was not involved in atrocities against civilians and that he is convinced of his innocence. Terms of Blaskic's detention were still being negotiated.

The announcement of Blaskic's surrender was welcomed by U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry, who is in Zagreb at the start of a two-day visit to the former Yugoslavia.

Perry also promised a crackdown by NATO peacekeepers on Muslim and Croat nationalists in Bosnia-Herzegovina operating illegal roadblocks that are preventing refugees from returning to their homes under the Bosnia peace agreement.

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