Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Briefly Noted

Compiled by IWPR staff in The Hague (TU No 385, 10-Dec-04)
By IWPR

According to the indictment against him, Milosevic commanded Serb forces deployed around the city in the final year of the war, during some of the worst shelling and sniping of the entire conflict. The siege of Sarajevo lasted more than three years and the attacks on the city were directed mainly against its civilian population.


Milosevic, now aged 62, took over as a commander of the Bosnian Serb army’s Sarajevo Romanija Corps on August 10, 1994. His predecessor, General Stanislav Galic, was sentenced by the Hague tribunal to 20 years in prison last December for his role in the siege.


Milosevic was transferred to the tribunal last week, after allegedly surrendering to the Serbian authorities in Belgrade.


A date for the beginning of the trial has not yet been set.


***


A Croatian magazine editor has written an open letter to the Hague tribunal, dismissing an order by Judge Alphons Orie to stop publishing the testimony of witnesses who appeared under protective measures at the trial of former Croat general Tihomir Blaskic.


The weekly Hrvatsko Slovo published excerpts on November 26 of what it said was the testimony of a protected witness in the case.


On December 2, Orie called upon the Croatian authorities to serve an order against the magazine, its publisher Stjepan Seselj and editor Domagoj Margetic, demanding that they desist from printing such testimony in the future.


But in his letter, sent to Orie and chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte on December 4, Margetic said the articles in question were printed after he left the paper. He is currently editor-in-chief of another publication, Novo Hrvatsko Slovo.


He went on to say the order, which was backed up by the threat of a seven-year jail term and a 100,000 euro fine, showed “political insolence”, and claimed the tribunal is trying to show that the Croats are a “criminal people” and to equate their guilt with that of the Serbs.


Blaskic was released from detention this summer after an appeals chamber overturned some of the most serious charges against him.


He had originally been sentenced in March 2000 to 45 years’ imprisonment for ordering the persecution of Muslim civilians while he commanding some of the ethnic Croat forces that operated in Bosnia during the 1992 to 1995 war.


***


The United States’ ambassador at large for war crimes has said that the Hague tribunal’s 2008 deadline for completion of trials may need to be extended because of Serbia’s lack of cooperation.


Belgrade is currently offering “zero” cooperation, Pierre Richard Prosper told journalists on earlier this week after a meeting with the tribunal’s deputy prosecutor David Tolbert. The ambassador pointed the finger at Serbian prime minister Vojislav Kostunica, whom he alleges has not ordered Serb security services to carry out arrests.


In the light of this, Prosper said, “We can no longer support domestic trials”. Washington had earlier suggested that if the Serbian government handed over former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, it might be allowed to try other key suspects in domestic courts.


According to current plans, the Hague tribunal is due to wind up investigations by the end of 2004, complete trials by 2008 and shut down completely in 2010.


Both Serbia and Bosnia suffered further criticism on December 9 as NATO announced its decision to reject the second round of applications from both countries to join its Partnership for Peace programme, a precursor to full membership of the alliance. NATO leaders said neither state would be allowed to join the program until they begin genuine cooperation with the tribunal.


In an interview with BKTV in Belgrade on December 8 Serbia and Montenegro foreign minister Vuk Draskovic expressed frustration with the failure to hand over war crimes suspects, saying it is pushing the country into “isolation and great misery”.


***


Serbian president Boris Tadic has offered a cautious apology to the people of Bosnia for Serb crimes during the 1992 to 1995 war.


“I apologise to all those who suffered from crimes committed in the name of Serb people,” he said, speaking at the start of a three-day visit to Bosnia. It is the first such visit by a Serbian president since the end of the conflict.


But Tadic emphasised that such acts were carried out by individuals, not the Serb people as a whole. And he underlined that crimes were also committed against Serbs in the same period.


“In this context we all need to apologise to one another. And if I need to be the first to do so, here I am,” he said.


President of Serbia and Montenegro Svetozar Marovic, himself a Montenegrin, travelled to Sarajevo last year and apologised for any “evil” perpetrated by anyone from his country against Bosnians during the war.


***


The Bosnian Serb government has announced a new scheme of financial incentives to encourage war crimes suspects to surrender to the Hague tribunal.


A one-off payment of around 34,000 US dollars was promised on December 6 to those who contacted the authorities by December 9 and surrender themselves by the end of the month. Stipends of 135 dollars were also promised for suspects’ children who are in higher education.


The offer improved on a scheme set up in July, which provided for monthly payments of 475 dollars to suspects’ families, plus funds to cover the cost of two yearly trips for four to The Hague.


Although monthly incomes in the Serb-controlled part of Bosnian hardly reach 100 US dollars, war crimes suspects are yet to respond.


The Bosnian Serb entity has failed to arrest a single suspect since the end of the conflict in 1995.


The 13 indictees thought to be hiding in the Serb-controlled part of Bosnia and neighbouring Serbia include key figures Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, who are both wanted for genocide in connection with the massacre of up to 8,000 Muslims from the town of Srebrenica in 1995.


***


The Sarajevo cantonal court on this week handed down a ten-year prison sentence to Bosnian Serb Zoran Knezevic for raping two Muslim women in the Sarajevo suburb of Grbavica in 1992 and 1993, Bosnian media reported.


The Hague tribunal authorised the Bosnian authorities to instigate legal proceedings against Knezevic in December 2001. He was arrested in November last year.


More IWPR's Global Voices