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

Lajcak Gets Down to Business in Bosnia

New international administrator purges Serb police force and introduces law and order reforms.
By Lisa Clifford
Bosnia’s new High Representative this week fired a senior Bosnian Serb police official believed to be supporting war crimes suspects and several dozen policemen suspected of involvement in atrocities.



Less than two weeks after taking on the job, Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak also ordered police across Bosnia to seize passports and travel documents from 93 people, the majority of whom are suspected of war crimes at Srebrenica. He said several are also involved in networks supporting fugitives from the Hague tribunal.



Their names are on the so-called “Srebrenica List” – 810 people named by a Bosnian Serb government commission as alleged participants in the massacre which claimed the lives of 8,000 Muslim men and boys.



At the request of the tribunal, Lajcak suspended Dragomir Andan, former director of the RS police who now acts as the force’s training director. Andan was first fired by former High Representative Paddy Ashdown but continued on in the police force in his current role.



“It is a purely technical action meant to prevent this man from being able to use his position to continue as a member of the war criminal support network,” said Lajcak.



At the same time, he sacked 35 Bosnian Serb suspected of involvement in the Srebrenica killings.



He also announced various amendments to Bosnian laws including one making it possible to seize travel documents.



Another enables evidence collected by special investigators employed by prosecutors to be admissible in court - not possible under the present system.



Rules permitting prison governors to grant weekend leave to prisoners – including rapists and murderers as soon as they begin serving their sentence no longer apply, he said, adding this would make it harder for convicted war criminals to escape from prison.



Radovan Stankovic escaped in May from a prison in Foca where he was serving a 20-year sentence for war crimes.



“After months of consultations and discussions with local authorities, it became clear that local law enforcement authorities did not have the legal means they needed to do what they are obligated to do,” Lajcak told a press conference. “That is why last night I signed a series of orders and decisions that will make the work of this country’s prosecutors and police easier to investigate and prosecute persons suspected of war crimes and those who help them evade justice.”



Lajcak also met with Hague chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte this week, who was in Bosnia to attend ceremonies commemorating the 12th anniversary of the massacre in Srebrenica, which occurred after Serb forces overran the town on July 11, 1995.



More than 30,000 people attended the ceremony at which 465 newly discovered victims were reburied. Their bodies were found in mass graves around Srebrenica where thousands of others are also believed to lie.



Lisa Clifford is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.