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Regional Report: Bosnian Serbs Charge Delic

Repulika Srpska's indictment of Bosniak general seen as an attempt to distract from lack of Hague cooperation.
By Amra Kebo

A court in Republika Srpksa last week issued charges against a wartime Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) army commander, in an apparent bid to draw local attention away from tribunal calls for help in bringing indicted local Serbs to justice.


In late October, tribunal president Claude Jorda and chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte reported to the UN that Republika Srpska, RS, was not complying with its duty to arrest war crimes suspects.


While also criticising the Yugoslav and Croatian authorities for lack of cooperation, Del Ponte was particularly scathing of the RS leadership.


"Those who finance the security of (Radovan) Karadzic and other top-level indictees work closely with the authorities, and are also deeply involved, at a local and regional scale, in human trafficking, drugs and the weapons trade, racketeering and other activities," she said.


"These are dangerous developments, and they are thwarting the costly efforts by the international community to restore peace in the Balkans."


The message was clear: RS should at least provide documents and help with investigations into war crime suspects, and should ideally also serve up Karadzic and other indictees hiding in the entity.


Instead, The Bosnian Serb authorities sought to divert local attention away from their lack of cooperation by filing an indictment Bosniak army general Rasim Delic, charging him with war crimes against civilians and prisoners of war.


The charges, which will be delivered The Hague for its consideration, relate to alleged cases of indiscriminate shelling of hospitals, health centres, schools and other civilian targets in Doboj, Teslic, Modrica, and Petrovo between 1993 and 1995.


In response, Delic told the Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje that it was a "nebulous indictment" launched for political reasons. "The aim is clearly to cover up crimes committed in this and other parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina," he said.


According to Branko Todorovic, the president of Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Republika Srpska, the RS government has sent The Hague some 59 cases concerned with war crimes against Serbs.


He said the majority of the charges were intended to satisfy short-term political goals, rather than to genuinely bring suspects to justice.


Michael Doyle, political analyst with the leading think-tank, the International Crisis Group, ICG, told IWPR that Banja Luka only seems to be ready to cooperate with The Hague in the cases against people who were not in the RS army during the war.


"It is quite clear that this represents a case of delaying and politicising the whole process before the eyes of RS citizens in order to divert attention to war crimes perpetrated against Serbs," he said.


Doyle doubted whether Del Ponte's threat to introduce measures against RS would make it more cooperative. "I don't think (Del Ponte will issue) anything more than mere words," he told IWPR.


Last year, the ICG proposed setting tough new conditions on aid to the RS, which included cooperation with the return of refugees and the war crimes tribunal. Doyle pointed out that Yugoslavia only extradited Milosevic to The Hague after the Bush government threatened to cut off financial assistance.


Amra Kebo is a commentator for the Sarajevo daily Oslobedjenje and a regular IWPR contributor.


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