Bosnia: Republika Srpska Under Threat

Critics of Republika Srpska may use the Milosevic indictment to call for the dissolution of the Bosnian entity.

Bosnia: Republika Srpska Under Threat

Critics of Republika Srpska may use the Milosevic indictment to call for the dissolution of the Bosnian entity.

Wednesday, 28 November, 2001

The new war crimes indictment against Slobodan Milosevic, charging him with genocide in Bosnia, could bring into question the very existence of Republika Srpska, RS, and provoke political instability in Serbia.

Two previous indictments issued against the former Yugoslav president citied individual crimes committed by Serb-led forces in Croatia and Kosovo, but did not mention genocide.

The Bosnia charges, however, could not ignore the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 for which one Serb General, Radislav Krstic, has already been sentenced for genocide. Since The Hague's case hinges on a belief that Milosevic planned, ordered or inspired the Bosnian slaughter, he could hardly be faced with a lesser charge.

The Hague's chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, is adamant she will be able to prove Milosevic was the driving force behind the massacres.

The new indictment sent a shudder through RS. In Banja Luka, an atmosphere of panic set in. There were fears that it could lead to widespread condemnation of the entity, even calls for its dissolution, as its enemies could now argue that it was founded on genocide.

The charges could also be embarrassing for the post-Milosevic regime in Belgrade. Two police chiefs, instrumental in the overthrow of Milosevic in October 2000, are named in The Hague's Bosnian indictment.

According to the charges, Milosevic exercised "real control" and had "considerable influence" over the Yugoslav army, the Bosnian Serb army and the Serbian paramilitaries sent to fight in Bosnia.

The names of 14 political, military, police and paramilitary leaders appear on the indictment as Milosevic's accomplices in what is described as a "joint criminal enterprise".

Topping the list are Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Following them are the political figures, Momcilo Krajisnik and Biljana Plavsic.

Also named are two members of the former Yugoslav presidency team, Borislav Jovic and Branko Kostic; Milan Martic, wartime head of the Croatian Serbs; paramilitary chiefs, including the late Zeljko Raznatovic "Arkan"; Yugoslav army officers such as Veljko Kadijevic and Blagoje Adzic; and Jovica Stanisic, secret police chief, and Franko Simatovic, former commander of special forces.

Particularly awkward for Belgrade is the inclusion of Stanisic and Simatovic, who also featured on Milosevic's Croatia indictment, issued in September 2001.

Stanisic and Simatovic played a significant role in ousting Milosevic from

power, mainly by promising that they would not intervene against civilians during the events of October 2000. In return, they won assurances

from Zoran Djindjic, the Serbian prime minister, that they would not be extradited to The Hague.

The new democratically elected government in Belgrade is eager to portray

Milosevic as a thing of the past. Further extraditions could provoke instability, especially as the anti-Hague lobby is still strong in Serbia.

Earlier in November, the Serbian government had trouble suppressing a mutiny by Serb special police who feared that they might find themselves on The Hague lists.

On Sunday, Sinisa Djordjevic, who advises RS prime minister Mladen Ivanic on relations with The Hague, warned that the Serb republic's survival would be threatened if the tribunal found Milosevic guilty of genocide.

"The Serb republic must do everything within its power to defend its existence," he said.

In Bosnia's Bosniak- Croat Federation, the Milosevic indictment was greeted with satisfaction. Kasim Trnka, who represents Bosnia in its claims for war reparations from Yugoslavia, told the Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz, "The Milosevic genocide indictment, as well as the Srebrenica charges, are crucial to establishing the international character of the war in Bosnia. They will considerably strengthen the Bosnian position."

The Bosniak Party for Democratic Action, SDA, which used to be led by Bosnia's wartime president Alija Izetbegovic, said Milosevic's indictment confirms Yugoslavia committed aggression against Bosnia and its non-Serb ethnic groups. The party said genocide, among other things, resulted in the establishment of RS, implying that it should not be able to survive in its present form.

Zeljko Cvijanovic is a journalist with the Belgrade weekly Blic News.

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