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Arrest Of General Talic

Tribunal Update 140: Last Week in The Hague (23-29 August, 1999)

The next morning he was arrested and later that day transferred to the Netherlands. This was the second arrest of an accused for war crimes in Austria (Zdravko Mucic was arrested in March 1996 also in Vienna) and the first arrest - outside the territory of the former Yugoslavia - based on a sealed indictment.

On 12 March 1999, Arbour signed an indictment charging General Momir Talic, the Chief of Staff of the Army of Republika Srpska, together with Radislav Brdjanin, with a crime against humanity - namely persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds.

The indictment for war crimes committed in Bosanska Krajina (north-western Bosnia-Herzegovina) in 1992 had been "sealed" until Brdjanin's arrest in July. The later was arrested by SFOR troops in Bosnia and transferred to The Hague where he is awaiting trial.

However, in the indictment that was made public in July, Louise Arbour did not reveal the name of the co-accused. The indictment could indeed contain more names. By keeping the indictment sealed, The Chief Prosecutor obviously believes she has a better chance of arresting those it accuses.

General Talic did however demonstrate incredible imprudence and naivete by attending the Vienna military conference. Following the arrest of Brdjanin, Talic should have had at least a reasonable suspicion that as a major military figure of the Bosanska Krajina Crisis staff, he might be listed among the accused in the indictment.

The indictment, which was confirmed by Judge Rodrigues on 14 March 1999, alleges that as members members of the Crisis Staff (Krizni Stab) of the Autonomous Region of Krajina (ARK),during 1992 Talic and Brdjanin, ordered, implemented, supported and assisted a plan designed to expel the Bosnian Muslim, Bosnian Croat and other non-Serb populations from the municipalities designated as part of the ARK, including the Prijedor municipality of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The physical take-overs of power in those municipalities of BH where the Serbs did not have clear control, were, according to the indictment, executed on the instructions of Radovan Karadzic.

Crisis staffs were created as bodies which would be responsible for the execution of the operational phase of the plan to ethnically cleanse Bosnian Muslim and Croat population in the ARK.

The core members of the ARK Crisis Staff included leaders of the ARK and the Banja Luka Municipal Assembly, the head of the SDS (Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party) Municipal Board, the SDS-appointed Commander of the Regional Security Centre and the commander of the 5th Corps/1st Krajina Corps, namely, the accused, General Momir Talic.

In his military capacity, Talic carried out the particular responsibilities in support of the overall plan, alleges the Prosecutor.

In elaborating the charge of persecution, that both Talic and Brdjanin face, the indictment alleges that the Bosnian Serb authorities, including Momir Talic, initiated a three-part plan whose final goal was to create a Serbian state that would be part of what remained of the SFRY.

The plan consisted of: 1) creating impossible conditions, involving pressure and terror tactics, with the effect of encouraging the non-Serbs to leave the area: 2) deporting and banishing those who were reluctant to leave: and 3) liquidating those non-Serbs who remained and who did not fit into the concept of the Serbian State.

It was declared by the president of the ARK Crisis Staff (Brdjanin) that 3 per cent was the acceptable limit of non-Serbs in the Serbian state.

Between 1 April and 31 December 1992, thousands of non-Serbs were transferred to camps and detention facilities established and operated under direct control of the municipal Crisis Staffs, including: Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje in Prijedor municipality; the SJB (State security police) building, Krings camp, Betonirka in Sanski Most, and the saw mill in Kotor Varos.

In those camps prisoners were killed, tortured and subjected to inhumane treatment. All of the Serb forces in those camps were subject to the authority and control of the ARK Crisis Staff. Furthermore, Manjaca camp was run by the 1st Krajina Corps which was commanded by Talic.

The forced transfers and deportations resulted in the expulsion of more than 100,000 Bosnian Muslims and Croats, says the indictment.

Momir Talic, concludes the Prosecutor, in concert with others, planned, ordered or otherwise aided and abetted the acts described in the indictment. He furthermore knew or had reason to know that Bosnian Serb and Serb forces under his control and the control of the ARK Crisis Staff were committing those acts. He is therefore charged with a crime against humanity, that is, persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds.

Leading political parties and several high officials in the Republika Srpska have protested over the general's arrest.

"This is incomprehensible. Every Serb can now be accused of some crime", said RS Defence Minister Manojlo Milovanovic upon his return to Banja Luka from Vienna, on the day of Talic's arrest.

Milovanovic told reporters that two Austrian policemen took Talic from a room in the building where the conference was taking place. Just prior to that, Milovanovic claimed, the Austrian personal security of the general had disappeared. Talic's arrest took place infront of him and the OSCE representative for military affairs, Carl Jean.

RS vice-president Mirko Sarovic described the moment of the arrest as "humiliating." For its part, the OSCE mission in BH stated that it was not aware of the existence of an indictment against Talic, while the Tribunal spokesperson claimed that it was not the OSCE who tipped the Tribunal off about Talic's travel to Austria. (For additional information about Bosanska Krajina indictment, see Tribunal Update No. 133).