COURTSIDE: Indictments - Del Ponte's Secret Dozen

The prosecutor's office confirms that Serbian fears over vast numbers of "sealed indictments" are unfounded.

COURTSIDE: Indictments - Del Ponte's Secret Dozen

The prosecutor's office confirms that Serbian fears over vast numbers of "sealed indictments" are unfounded.

After years of silence on the issue, tribunal prosecutors finally revealed last week the number of people sought on so-called "sealed" indictments and related arrest warrants.

Prosecution spokeswoman Florence Hartmann said the Office of the Prosecutor had decided to make the information public to quash "absurd claims that entire nations are under sealed indictment".

Confirming the total number of 38 fugitives, Hartmann said that "around dozen" are on sealed indictments.

In fact, the actual number is 13. One of the 26 named in the public indictments, Goran Borovnica, is believed dead.

Keeping mum about the numbers involved has so far proved beneficial. To date, 12 suspects named in sealed indictments have been arrested, and former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic surrendered when she learned she was included in such an indictment. However, the policy has triggered wild speculation about the numbers involved. In Belgrade recently a rumour flew around that "most of the Serbian population is under sealed indictment".

For several weeks, Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has been referring to "38 fugitives" - even though only 26 persons named in public indictments are still at large. Last week, officials confirmed the assumption that the remainder included individuals named in sealed indictments.

Hartmann said that according to the prosecution's information, 12 of the 38 fugitives are in Yugoslavia; the other 26, in Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb entity. Hartmann repeated Del Ponte's claim that former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic are in Republika Srpska. She asserted that Mladic enjoys an official escort provided by the Bosnian Serb army.

If the prosecution's information is accurate, then the Bosnian Serb entity is also providing refuge to two Bosnian Croat fugitives - Ivica Rajic and Zoran Marinic. Both men are publicly indicted for crimes against Bosniaks in central Bosnia.

Although prepared to reveal for the first time the number of accused persons named in sealed indictments, Hartmann refused to comment on the specific crimes attributed to them. For now one can only be sure that some of the suspects are charged with the shelling of Dubrovnik at the end of 1991. In early March this year prosecutors announced a "Dubrovnik indictment" had been raised against "several persons responsible for grave violations of the Geneva Conventions and other war crimes".

It can also be assumed with certainty that at least two of the 13 secret indictees are accused of genocide for their alleged role in the Srebrenica killings alongside Gen. Radislav Krstic, then commander of the Bosnian Serb army's Drina Corps. When Krstic was arrested his indictment was "unsealed" and the names of two co-accused were rather crudely crossed out using a thick black marker. The uncensored text revealed the two suspects occupied posts in the Bosnian Serb army high command.

Prosecution evidence handed over to Krstic suggests the two were commanders of Drina Corps brigades which played an important role in the Srebrenica operation in July 1995.

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