December 14, 1995
Web posted at: 11:20 a.m. EST (1620 GMT)
From Correspondent Jim Clancy
NORTHEAST BOSNIA (CNN) -- The evidence of war crimes committed by all sides against Bosnia's civilians is overwhelming. They have been driven from their homes by the hundreds of thousands. Many have been executed, burned, raped and beaten. As of November 13, the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, had issued 52 indictments accusing 45 Serbs and 7 Croats of war crimes. But so far, only one man is in custody awaiting trial.
The tribunal already has warned the warring factions, including the governments of Croatia and Serbia, that the Dayton peace agreement requires them to surrender suspects to the court and cooperate with ongoing investigations. Without such cooperation, the United Nations Security Council could impose sanctions.
As NATO troops enforce the Dayton deal, they risk retaliation if they try to find and arrest the accused. So NATO insists it will not hunt down indicted war criminals, and will arrest them only if its forces happen across them. Bosnian Serb Leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic, both of whom have been indicted, reject the authority of the tribunal and bluntly warn that attempts to arrest them for genocide and war crimes will create a nightmare for NATO.
Karadzic, who denies committing war crimes, told CNN last month that if there were proof of his guilt he would arrest himself. But "nobody else should try to arrest people throughout Bosnia because there will be terrible incidents."
If war crimes are not prosecuted, "there's not going to be peace."
-- Prosecutor Richard Goldstone
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Terrible incidents are what NATO wants to avoid. In the face of such threats, some wonder whether prosecuting war crimes cases would jeopardize the peace mission. But if people are not held accountable for war crimes, "there's not going to be peace," said the tribunal's chief prosecutor, Richard Goldstone. With the top-ranking Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats already indicted by the court, the predominantly Muslim government is emphatic about its support for the tribunal.
"Justice is the main way to achieve peace in our country"
-- Muhamed Sacirbey, outgoing Bosnian foreign minister
"Some people are scared of justice," outgoing Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey told CNN. "... We think justice is the main way we are going to achieve peace and reconciliation in our country." But villages have been burned and civilians killed in Bosnian government military operations as well. Although Bosnians will be the last of the three warring factions to be indicted, Goldstone said the evidence is there. "Indictments can be expected in the not too distant future," he told CNN.
Although NATO seeks to avoid confrontation by not acting as a police force, hunting down suspected war criminals, that policy itself is likely to bring controversy. In Bosnia, the international community also is accused, charged with standing on the sidelines far too long. With the evidence already in hand, and its forces on the ground, NATO cannot afford renewed charges of looking the other way.
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