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Ganic Awaits UK Extradition Ruling

War crimes suspect held on Serbian warrant but Bosnia wants him too.
By Brian Gallagher
The fate of former Bosnian presidency member Ejup Ganic, under arrest in Britain on a war crimes extradition warrant issued by Serbia, has been complicated by a similar bid from Bosnia.

Ganic, president of Sarajevo’s School of Science and Technology, was in Britain for a degree ceremony at the University of Buckingham, with which his school has links. He was held at Heathrow airport on March 1.

The Serbian provisional extradition warrant alleges “conspiracy to murder with other named people and breach of the Geneva Convention, namely killing wounded soldiers under section 1 of the Geneva Convention Act 1957”.

However, a spokesman for the Bosnia prosecutor’s office was quoted as saying, "The prosecution considers that dealing with war crimes committed in Bosnia-Hercegovina by Bosnian citizens is under its exclusive authority", adding that the office would ask the British court to hand Ganic over to Bosnia.

Such competing extradition requests are thought to be unprecedented and it is not known how long the case will take to be determined.

Ganic was remanded in custody and was again denied bail on March 3 due to the gravity of the alleged crimes.

The charges against him relate to the time when Ganic was a member of the Bosnian presidency in 1992, effectively serving as a deputy to then president Alija Izetbegovic. The extradition request relates to an incident in May of 1992 known as the Dobrovoljacka (Volunteers’ Street) case.

A day before the incident, on May 2, 1992, Izetbegovic was kidnapped by the Yugoslav army, JNA, at Sarajevo airport when he returned from peace negotiations in Lisbon. On May 3, a deal was done in which Izetbegovic would be released and a JNA column would be allowed out of the besieged city by the Bosniaks but subsequently the column was fired upon. Belgrade says 42 soldiers were killed, and firmly blames Ganic, who was effectively in charge while Izetbegovic was being detained.

The facts of the matter are disputed. Retired Bosnian army general Jovan Divjak – of Serb ethnicity – said in an interview with Radio Free Europe that there was no order to fire; that it was the action of individuals and that eight JNA soldiers were killed, not 42.

In 2009, a Serbian court issued arrest warrants for 19 people in connection with the incident, including Ganic and fellow presidency member Stjepan Kljujic.

The case against Ganic has already been rejected by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY.

Balkans commentator Zoran Pajic, visiting professor at the department of war studies at King’s College, London, and an IWPR trustee, said, “The Hague tribunal found no evidence [against Ganic]. The file was referred to the Bosnian state prosecutor.”

Only two days before Ganic was detained, Serbia and Bosnia had signed such an agreement, stipulating that the two states should exchange information on war crimes cases and that suspects should be tried in the countries of their origin, or in the country in which they reside.

To complicate the legal situation further, the Bosnian state prosecutors are now also attempting to extradite Ganic, in what some may see as a way of preventing him from ending up in Belgrade. This will mean that the British courts may have to choose which country – if any – to extradite him to.

Robin Harris, an adviser to Baroness Thatcher, the former British premier, a friend of Ganic, told IWPR that his detention could be used as a precedent against visiting Bosniak dignitaries to Britain. “It will enable Serb courts to use similar warrants for other visitors from the region; not just Bosniaks but quite possibly Croatians too,” he said.

Pajic is surprised that Britain has allowed itself to be involved in this affair, believing it to be a “no-win” situation for London, and said it could strain its relations with Bosnia.

The extradition process can be prolonged. The case of the Serb Milan Spanovic, arrested in Britain in 2006, dragged on for nearly three years before he was extradited to Croatia to face war crimes charges. If the matter is not resolved swiftly, Ganic could be facing a much longer stay in London than he anticipates.

Brian Gallagher is an IWPR contributor in London.

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