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Book Claiming West Colluded With Karadzic Ridiculous

Ex-US war crimes envoy rubbishes claim that West allowed major Bosnian Serb suspect to escape.
Allegations from an ex-spokesman for the chief prosecutor at the Hague tribunal that America and other leading western countries deliberately obstructed the arrest of a key suspect have been dismissed as ridiculous and disgraceful by a former American diplomat who dealt with war crimes issues.

Florence Hartmann makes these allegations in her new book, Peace and Punishment, which accuses the United States, Germany, Britain, France and Russia of allowing Radovan Karadzic to escape justice.

Karadzic was indicted on genocide charges by the tribunal in 1996.

“Hartmann’s claims presented in her book should be taken very seriously, especially those related to the alleged agreement….that Karadzic should not be arrested,” said Nedzad Latic, president of the Bosniak Populist Party, one of the strongest Muslim parties in Bosnia.

Chief UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has previously accused the great powers of lacking the political will to find Karadzic, who remains at large, but it is rare for someone so closely associated with the prosecution to accuse them of deliberately obstructing justice.

At the heart of the allegations against Karadzic - the ex-Bosnian Serb political leader - is that he, along with Ratko Mladic - the Bosnian Serbs’ former military chief - orchestrated the slaughter of 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in the town of Srebenica in the largest act of mass murder in Europe since World War Two.

“I don’t think this book, however provocative, will change anything,” said Sead Numanovic, a reporter with the Sarajevo-based Avaz daily.

“If the parliaments of any of the countries Hartmann mentioned in her book in a particularly bad light reacted and called for an investigation into these allegations, I would have some hope that things might change.”

The allegations have already provoked an official reaction in Serbia, however. Serb war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic has started an investigation into the allegations of an agreement between Karadzic and western officials, according to Belgrade’s radio B92. He said he would raise them with Del Ponte at the meeting scheduled to take in Serbia’s capital this week.

American officials have angrily denied Hartmann’s claims. “Those accusations are ridiculous. We went to great lengths to try and have Karadzic arrested, and it’s disgraceful that a book on such an important topic contains inaccurate information and deceptive conclusions,” Richard Prosper, previously the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, told the Bosnian daily Dnevni Avaz.

But lawyers for Croatian generals accused of war crimes during the 1995 Operation Storm, when troops captured parts of Croatia under UN protection and allegedly drove out the ethic Serbs that lived there, pounced on the book.

They pointed to passages that said the Americans took part in planning the controversial operations, and that the Serbs left of their own free will. The book also claims the Americans asked Del Ponte for the charges against ex-general Ante Gotovina to be dropped.

Goran Mikulicic, defence lawyer for the accused General Mladen Markac, said he had already ordered a copy of the book without waiting for a Croatian translation.

“Absolutely we’ll take Hartmann’s new book into account,” Mikulicic told IWPR when asked about the potential significance of the book for Markac’s case.

He said that although he personally did not agree with some of Hartmann’s conclusions, his defence team would try to track down the documents she used to support them.

He particularly wanted to find proof that the Croatian Serbs were withdrawn by order of the Serbian leadership and not driven out by the Croatian army.

Luka Misetic, Gotovina’s defence lawyer, said that Hartmann could be used as a witness because of her claims about the Serb exodus from Croatia, which, according to the book, was coordinated with American forces.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, refused to be drawn over how the book might affect their cases.

Bill Clinton’s former peace envoy to the ex-Yugoslav states, meanwhile, denied having asked Del Ponte to drop the charges against Gotovina, who is widely seen as a hero in Croatia.

Robert Gelbard confirmed to Globus magazine that he had talked to Del Ponte, but said he had merely discussed possible surrender of the indicted general.

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