Tightening The Noose

The arrest of Radoslav Brdjanin, under a sealed indictment from the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, has renewed speculation in Republika Srpska as to who else might have been indicted for war crimes.

Tightening The Noose

The arrest of Radoslav Brdjanin, under a sealed indictment from the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, has renewed speculation in Republika Srpska as to who else might have been indicted for war crimes.

Thursday, 10 November, 2005

"Am I on the secret list for war crimes?" a senior Bosnian Serb official enquired of Republika Srpska's Justice Minister the day that Radoslav Brdjanin, former head of Banja Luka's crisis headquarters and himself an MP, was arrested for war crimes and taken to The Hague.


The minister was unable to answer his question. Instead, an answer of sorts appeared in the Bijeljina periodical Ekstra magazin which, citing a "senior Western diplomat", published the names it claims are on The Hague Tribunal's list of sealed indictments.


Top of the list, according to Ekstra magazin, are Gen. Momir Talic, Commander-in-Chief of the Republika Srpska Army and war-time commander of the First Krajina Corps, and Stojan Zupljanin, Banja Luka's war-time police chief and later an advisor to Bosnian Serb war-time president and war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic.


Another 15 military, police and paramilitary commanders, according to the same source, are also on the list, including Republika Srpska's current Defence Minister, Gen. Manojlo Milovanovic, former Interior Minister Dragan Kijac and four of his subordinates, five paramilitary leaders from northern and eastern Bosnia and six mayors.


Ekstra magazin also reported that Republika Srpska's former president, Biljana Plavsic, had been "removed from the list at the request of US Secretary of State Madleine Albright", even though she was responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Bijeljina.


Ekstra magazin is not the kind of publication whose reporting is always reliable, but the publishing of names in Republika Srpska is significant. It is recognition that the charges against Brdjanin could just as well be levelled against large numbers of senior Bosnian Serbs.


One of Brdjanin's associates says: "All decisions issued by the crisis headquarters had Brdjanin's signature. But, Prijedor, Banja Luka and Sanski Most could not have been cleansed without the complicity of police chief Stojan Zupljanin, the military commanded by Gen. Momir Talic and paramilitary formations that 'fought' in the zone of his responsibility and were under his control."


It seems, therefore, that ordinary Serbs in Republika Srpska are now prepared to accept the connection between the political, police and military leadership during the war.


In the wake of Brdjanin's arrest the speaker of the National Assembly Petar Nokic, a senior Socialist Party official, lodged an official protest with the High Representative Carlos Westendorp. Djokic complained that Brdjanin had been vetted by the Temporary Electoral Commission in advance of the last elections and had been informed that he was not on the list of sealed indictees.


He therefore asked Westendorp to ensure that The Hague Tribunal hand over details of all sealed indictments to the relevant Bosnian authorities. Immediately afterwards, Louise Arbour, the Chief Prosecutor of The Hague Tribunal, visited Bosnia herself.


Milan Trbojevic, Republika Srpska's Justice Minister, says that Arbour offered the governments of both entities the lists of individuals who have been indicted--on condition that they should be responsible for their extradition. The government's position on this issue is still unknown. Trbojevic says: "The government has to address this problem, it can no longer bury its head in the sand."


"That [the arrest and extradition of indicted war criminals] is an obligation assumed with the Dayton Agreement," says Republika Srpska's Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, but refuses to discuss concrete moves which his government might take to this end.


Trbojevic is adamant that the sealed indictments should be published, but is in two minds as to whether local police and judicial organs have the authority to arrest and extradite suspects without changing the current laws. "I am not sure if it is legal to arrest individuals simply on the basis of a letter from The Hague," he says.


Unlike Trbojevic, Banja Luka lawyer Goran Babic, thinks that the legal basis for arrest does exist but that the government is not interested in co-operation with the Tribunal for political reasons.


"The sealed indictments effectively provide the government with an excuse so that it is not obliged to co-operate with The Hague. Why should it be interested in the list being published?" he says.


The attitude of Republika Srpska's government to individuals indicted by The Hague Tribunal for war crimes has in the past been equivocal. Most indictees have been portrayed as national martyrs with the result that the government is paying 500 German Marks a month to the families of Serbs imprisoned in The Hague.


Branko Peric is Banja Luka editor of AIM, the Alternative Information Network.


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