February 13, 1996
Web posted at: 9:45 p.m. EST (0245 GMT)
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- U.S. officials Tuesday applauded the extradition of two top Bosnian Serb officers to The Hague's War Crimes Tribunal, but some Serb leaders said the action gravely threatens the Dayton peace accord that ended nearly four years of war in Bosnia.
Bosnian Serb General Djordje Djukic and Colonel Aleksa Krsmanovic, arrested by the Muslim-led Bosnian government, were taken to a Dutch prison in The Hague in Netherlands on Monday. It is the first time suspects have been extradited from the region to The Hague.
After questioning the two men, investigators at the tribunal will decide whether the Serbs should stand trial.
Velibor Ostojic, a senior figure in the Bosnian Serb power structure, called the extradition a "dangerous precedent." "All this gravely jeopardizes further implementation of the peace agreement," he said.
Although he and other Bosnian Serbs stopped short of threatening retaliation, their delegation boycotted a meeting in Vienna on reducing the arsenal of the former warring factions.
In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry hailed the deportation and said the peace mission was back on track. From now on, he said, troops would be given more detailed information about suspected war criminals, including photographs.
"While we are not going to be setting up checkpoints specifically for the purpose of looking for war criminals (and) we are not going to be conducting manhunts ... we'll see to it that our forces get better information so that if they come across them, they will recognize them," Perry told reporters. (238K AIFF sound or 238K WAV sound)
The tribunal, which has only one of 52 indicted Bosnians in its custody, will decide "within weeks" whether to charge or release the two Serbs, tribunal spokesman Christian Chartier said.
"General Djukic and Colonel Krsmanovic are not indictees," Chartier said. "They are suspects who are afforded all the suspects' rights. I mean by that: assistance of a counsel, free assistance of an interpreter, and the right to remain silent." The most punishing charge either Serb could face is genocide. (289K AIFF sound or 289K WAV sound)
Bosnian Serb cafe owner Dusan Tadic, who's in the tribunal's custody, has been in jail awaiting trial for the last two years. He's been charged with murder, rape, torture, breaches of the Geneva Convention, and ethnic cleansing. His trial date is due to be set Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Carl Bildt, the international community's peace coordinator for Bosnia, promised that those charged with crimes against humanity would be brought to justice eventually. Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are charged with genocide, but neither is in the tribunal's custody.
"There is no way out for these people," Bildt told reporters. "It is just a matter of time. The international community is firm on this and the international community is not going to give way."
The arrest of Djukic and Krsmanovic on January 30 triggered the first major crisis since a fragile peace came to Bosnia two months ago.
The Bosnian Serbs protested the detention and decided to sever all contacts with NATO peacekeeping forces and Bosnia's federation of Croats and Muslims.
Although Serb leaders later said they would cooperate with NATO, it is still unclear if the military would agree to restore links with the peace implementers. NATO spokesperson Col. John Kirkwood said relations with the Serbs were still "spotty."
U.S. envoy and peace plan-architect Richard Holbrooke had raced to Bosnia last week to help keep the peace process on track in wake of the crisis.
During his trip, Holbrooke drafted new rules for the treatment of suspected war criminals, one of which stipulates that Bosnia's central government submit a list of suspects to the tribunal for screening. Only those approved for detention by the tribunal can be detained by the government.
Holbrooke ended his tour of the former Yugoslavia in Croatia Tuesday, saying he had won pledges from the presidents of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia to adhere to the peace deal signed in December 1995.
A rifle grenade hit a NATO base in the Sarajevo suburb of Ilidza Monday, but there were no casualties, a NATO spokesperson said.
The grenade struck Hotel Serbia in the Serb-held town, shattering its window panes and boring a hole in its roof. The hotel is the headquarters for the commander of NATO ground forces in Bosnia, Lt.-Gen. Sir Michael Walker.
The base has been the target of intermittent sniping.
AP contributed to this report.
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