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NATO Arrests Serb Politician, Holds Man on War Crimes Charges

By Charles Trueheart

A senior Bosnian Serb politician who reportedly ran the machinery of ethnic cleansing against Bosnian Muslims and Croats in northwest Bosnia in 1992 was arrested by British NATO troops Tuesday morning and flown to The Hague to stand trial on war crimes charges.

Radoslav Brdjanin, who subsequently became a deputy prime minister of Bosnia’s peacetime Serb Republic, was detained without incident by British soldiers in the Bosnian city of Banja Luca around 9:30 a.m., according to a Maj. Gordon Welch, a spokesman for the NATO-led international Stabilization Force (SFOR).

Agence France-Presse news service reported that Brdjanin and his wife were stopped in their car at an SFOR roadblock, and that he submitted peacefully to the arrest.

Brdjanin is charged with planning, ordering and committing killings, beatings, detentions and deportations of Muslims and Croats from the Krajina region around Banja Luca during the first nine months of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, according to Welch.

The March 1999 indictment of Brdjanin is among an unknown number of sealed indictments, issued secretly by the United Nations’ autonomous International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The tribunal’s recent investigative resources have been devoted almost exclusively to prosecuting war crimes in Kosovo. On May 27, it announced the indictment of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and four of his associates for alleged crimes against humanity in the Serbian province.

Tribunal prosecutors and their spokesmen have warned that the five face additional charges--perhaps for their role in the earlier war in Bosnia--and that others will be indicted in the immediate future.

Chief prosecutor Louise Arbour has pressed NATO simultaneously to demonstrate to Milosevic and other war crimes suspects in Serbia that the alliance is serious about bringing suspected criminals from the Bosnian conflict to justice.