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10 Suspects Surrender to The Hague

Tribunal Update 46: Last Week in The Hague (September 29- October 3)
By IWPR ICTY

It was a move carefully arranged by President Clinton's special Balkan envoy Robert Gelbard who came to Split airport where the group boarded a Dutch military plane. Gelbard was accompanied by several Croat well-wishers, including President Franjo Tudjman's son Miroslav, head of the Croatian secret services; Ivic Pasalic, advisor to President Tudjman; Vladimir Soljic, Croat president of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina; and Bozo Rajic, president of the Bosnian branch of Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Union.

The development took the Croat public by surprise as only two weeks before the Croatian Prime Minister, Zlatko Matesa, set a defiant tone on the subject of the extradition of war crime suspects. "We will not sell out our men in exchange for loans", he said, in direct reference to mounting international pressure on Croatia to comply with its obligations under the Dayton Peace Accords of 1995. The most important of Croatia's obligations was to help extradite Bosnian Croats indicted by the Tribunal. Up to now, President Tudjman has stubbornly refused.

Not many people expected Tudjman to hand over Dario Kordic, the highest- ranking Bosnian Croat indicted by the Tribunal, however. Kordic and his comrades are accused of wide ranging crimes against the Bosniak civilian population in central Bosnia in the spring of 1993, including the attack on Ahmici. Upon boarding the plane Kordic addressed those present on behalf of the ten accused, saying that their consciences were clear "before God and the Croatian people." They were going to The Hague, he explained, to clear their names "in the interest of the Croatian people as a whole and the Croatian state which has been subjected to horrible pressures from the international community". Gelbard assured the group they would have a fair trial.

In the end they were. On Dnevnik, the main news programme of the Croatian State Television network the first news item on Monday was Kordic and his comrades' "voluntary surrender" to The Hague. The second item was a report announcing that the World Bank had decided on that very day to approve Croatia's request for a previously refused loan.