Peacekeepers may seek out Bosnian war-crime suspects
September 24, 1997
Web posted at: 12:06 p.m. EDT (1206 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- NATO-led peacekeeping troops in Bosnia may soon seek out suspected war criminals in the region,
including former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic, CNN
The policy would mark a more aggressive approach in the
handling of alleged war criminals, something the United
States has sought.
The Clinton administration also is trying to build its case
for a sustained role by international peacekeepers in Bosnia
beyond next summer's planned pullout. The 8,500 U.S. troops
in the region are part of the 31,000-strong NATO force.
Currently, NATO peacekeepers are authorized to capture
suspected war criminals only if they encounter them in the
course of normal patrols and if the apprehension can be done
safely. Peace forces are not allowed to pursue suspects,
conduct manhunts or arrest suspects in situations that might
lead to casualties.
NATO and the United States repeatedly have said that the
arrests of accused war criminals is not and will not become a
mission for the international Stabilization Force in Bosnia,
or SFOR. They say making arrests is a job for police, not the
But the United States has pushed for creation of an
international police force that could pursue alleged war
criminals, arguing that the suspects threaten the region's
fragile peace. However, no international consensus on the
special force has been reached.
Meanwhile, Karadzic, the most prominent former leader
indicted on wartime charges, remains free to engage in a
power struggle with Biljana Plavsic, who succeeded him as
president. An international war crimes tribunal at The Hague
wants to try Karadzic and others for atrocities committed
during Bosnia's 3 1/2-year civil war.
Wary of another Somalia
A senior Clinton administration official told CNN that the
proposed policy to capture war-criminal suspects could take
affect after Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. John Shalikashvili
retires later this month.
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
Shalikashvili and other top military brass have been hesitant
to go after suspected war criminals, because of the failed
U.N. peacekeeping mission in Somalia to capture faction
leader Gen. Mohamed Farrah Aidid.
In October 1993, Aidid's militia shot down two U.S.
helicopters, killing 18 Army rangers and prompting outcries
in the United States to withdraw the multinational force. The
United Nations completed its withdrawal in March 1995,
leaving Somalia to the warring factions.
The NATO peacekeepers who are trying to stabilize the former
Yugoslavia are scheduled to withdraw in June 1998.
Observers fear if war-criminal suspects remain at large,
they could split the region geographically and politically,
leaving the Dayton peace accord in jeopardy after the
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is in New
York to attend a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, is to
meet Wednesday with ministers of the Contact Group, which
deals with Bosnian issues.
Albright said Tuesday she hoped to use the meeting to "touch
base and move forward" with peace efforts, especially now
that the local Bosnian elections are over.
From State Department Correspondent Steve Hurst.