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Serbs Indicted for War Crimes May Be Extradited

By John Pomfret
The Washington Post
BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina

A senior Bosnian Serb official has suggested for the first time that Serbs indicted for alleged war crimes could be extradited to the international war-crimes tribunal at The Hague.

Bosnian Serb Justice Minister Marko Arsovic, in a recent interview, said prosecutors have interrogated indicted Serb war criminals living in Bosnian Serb territory in preparation for their possible arrest and extradition. His comments illustrated what appears to be a tactical shift in the Bosnian Serb attitude toward the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, according to tribunal officials.

Since 1993, when the tribunal was established, the Serbs have defied international pressure and refused to cooperate with it. Starting this summer, however, when Arsovic journeyed to The Hague, cooperation has begun.

Tribunal officials are not sure what the Serbs are planning. The limited cooperation could be an attempt to stave off more serious demands for the extradition of wanted men, especially the Serbs' chief political leader, Radovan Karadzic, and his military commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic. The two men are wanted on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. But it also could be the first step toward more significant cooperation.

What is clear, tribunal officials said, is that the Serbs have surpassed the Croats in working with The Hague, a development that has embarrassed the United States, which has nurtured a patron-client relationship with the nationalist government of President Franjo Tudjman in Zagreb.

Justice Louise Arbour, said she found Arsovic's comments interesting but is still waiting for the Serbs to begin extraditing wanted men. "It is hard to understand what this is all about," Arbour said. "They indicated that they intended to serve copies of the arrest warrants."

So far, of the 73 men still under indictment for committing war crimes in the area that was once Yugoslavia, 49 are Serbs. Croats come next, with 18 men indicted. Three Bosnian Muslims and one Macedonian have also been charged.

In all, 10 have been handed over to The Hague or taken into custody in other countries; one of them was released and died. The Muslims arrested and extradited two men - both Muslims. The Croatian government has extradited one man, a Croatian general, and is holding another, a Macedonian, for possible removal to The Hague. The rest have been arrested in Europe.

Numerous senior Bosnian Croat officials, also wanted by the tribunal, now live in Croatia and regularly meet with President Tudjman. One indicted Croat, Dario Kordic, lives in a Zagreb apartment complex owned by the Croatian army. He is regularly seen at functions attended by Tudjman.