Bosnian Serb Surrenders

Former interior minister’s decision to travel to The Hague hailed as “moral and patriotic” in Belgrade and Banja Luka.

Bosnian Serb Surrenders

Former interior minister’s decision to travel to The Hague hailed as “moral and patriotic” in Belgrade and Banja Luka.

Friday, 18 November, 2005

Former Bosnian Serb interior minister Mico Stanisic surrendered to the Hague tribunal this week to face charges that he played a key role in a campaign of mass murder, deportation and detention of Bosnian Croat and Muslim civilians in Bosnia in 1992.

Stanisic handed himself over to the United Nations court on March 11, following talks with ministers from the Serbian and Republika Srpska governments, who hailed his “moral and patriotic decision”.

“I do not feel guilty,” he reportedly told the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA a day before leaving for The Hague. “I only need to tell the truth where justice is handed out and everything will be alright.”

The indictment against him, made public by the tribunal the same day, includes ten counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war.

During the time period referred to in the document, from April to December 1992, prosecutors claim that Stanisic – as head of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which he helped establish – was in overall command of the police in Serb-dominated parts of the country.

In that time, it is alleged that forces under his control took part in a campaign to disarm the Bosnian Muslim and Croat population. This was disguised as a move to tackle extremism – but after the non-Serb population had been disarmed, towns and villages were then attacked, to get their inhabitants to flee those areas earmarked for a future Serb state.

Most of those who stayed were eventually rounded up and forcibly removed.

Prosecutors claim that thousands of Bosnian Croats and Muslims were killed and tens of thousands more were driven from their homes over a nine-month period. Refugees were often forced to sign over their property to the Bosnian Serb authorities before being allowed to leave the area.

The indictment also includes a list of more than 60 detention facilities where non-Serb prisoners were held in brutal conditions and were often viciously beaten, tortured, raped and murdered.

And it catalogues eight separate massacres as well as other sporadic killings that took place during the same period. On two separate occasions, prosecutors charge, some 70 people at a time were rounded up into houses and slaughtered.

In other attempts to get non-Serbs to leave their homes, prosecutors say villages were destroyed and looted and people were dismissed from their jobs, forced to undergo arbitrary searches and were denied access to public services.

Stanisic is charged partly on the grounds that he failed to prevent crimes committed by his subordinates in the police or punish them afterwards, and also for his direct role in the “joint criminal enterprise” of ethnic cleansing.

Others named as having taken part in the same criminal project include Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, and general Ratko Mladic, both of whom remain at large having been indicted by the Hague tribunal.

After a 1994 rift between Belgrade and the Bosnian Serb authorities – during which he sided with the Milosevic government – Stanisic left for Serbia, where he now owns two businesses. He has also written a book of war memoirs, as yet unpublished.

Michael Farquhar is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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