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Milosevic Case Puts Heat on Other Suspects

July 05, 2001|DAVID HOLLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia — Now that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has appeared before the U.N. war crimes tribunal, pressure is building for the hand-over of other suspects ranging from well-hidden fugitives to Serbia's president.

Some indictees are living quietly but openly here in Belgrade, including four associates of Milosevic who were indicted together with him two years ago on charges of crimes against humanity. One of those four--Milan Milutinovic--is keeping such a low profile that sometimes it is forgotten that he is still president of Serbia, the dominant republic in Yugoslavia.

Others sought by the tribunal are in hiding, such as former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, presumed to be living under the noses of North Atlantic Treaty Organization peacekeeping forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Between the hand-over of Milosevic last week and his appearance before the court Tuesday, Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte demanded that Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic, the commander of the Bosnian Serb army during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, also be brought to The Hague.

"Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic were first indicted almost six years ago," Del Ponte said. "The fact that they have not been arrested . . . is scandalous."

Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic on Wednesday added his voice to calls for the arrest of Karadzic and Mladic. "I think practically that there is no alternative than to do the job, which means to arrest the people," Mladen told a news conference in Amsterdam during a trip to visit tribunal officials at The Hague.

The U.S. State Department, for its part, has stressed that authorities in Belgrade, the Yugoslav and Serbian capital, must quickly hand over the four top figures indicted with Milosevic for atrocities allegedly committed against ethnic Albanians in the Serbian province of Kosovo.

Ironically, Del Ponte's comment primarily targets Western countries, for in essence she was demanding that NATO at least find and capture Karadzic, considered almost certain to be hiding in the Republika Srpska portion of Bosnia. Western diplomats in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, routinely confirm that Karadzic spends most of his time in the French-controlled part of eastern Republika Srpska, which borders Yugoslavia.

The international community, including NATO, has called the shots in Bosnia since the 1995 Dayton peace accord ended the bloody ethnic warfare there.

Until Milosevic's ouster in October, Mladic was known to be spending much of his time under Yugoslav army protection in Serbia. But with democratic reformers now in charge of both the Yugoslav and Serbian governments, it seems possible that he too is now hiding in Republika Srpska.

Karadzic and Mladic were indicted July 1995 on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for actions against Muslims and Croats in Bosnia, including "the unlawful confinement, murder, rape, sexual assault, torture, beating, robbery and inhumane treatment of civilians."

The West's determination to bring Milosevic to The Hague but its failure to capture Karadzic is viewed by many here as further evidence of hypocrisy in the Western powers' approach to war crimes.

The arrest of Karadzic "has to be up to the West," said Ljiljana Smajlovic, a prominent Yugoslav political commentator, reflecting a view of the situation shared not only by Serbs but also by many foreigners here.

"I mean, it cannot be his clever hiding," Smajlovic continued. "I cannot imagine that Mr. Karadzic could be hiding so well that the West, with all the different technological and other resources it has, could not locate him if they wanted. . . . If the West wanted Mr. Karadzic badly enough, they'd get him."

The most common explanation for why Karadzic has been able to remain free for so long in territory patrolled by the NATO-led peacekeeping force, known as SFOR, is that any attempt to capture him is expected to be a very bloody affair.

"I have heard that they have concrete information about his whereabouts," said a Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The key issue is he appears to be well fortified with people who are prepared to sacrifice their lives to protect him, and SFOR with its force-protection posture doesn't want to challenge him."

The diplomat said he was not sure which Western capitals were most resistant to risking soldiers' lives in an effort to capture Karadzic, but he believes the foot-dragging probably originated in more than one country.

As for Serbian President Milutinovic and the other three indictees who were part of the Milosevic regime, authorities in Belgrade are trying to work out the legal process by which they will be transferred, the diplomat said.

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