Serbia seeks thumbs-up on co-operation

06/11/2009

Serbian officials voiced hope Thursday that chief UN prosecutor Serge Brammertz will give a positive assessment of their country's collaboration with The Hague tribunal, which is key to Belgrade's EU bid.

(AP, AFP, Reuters, DPA, Beta, B92, Serbian Government, European Parliament - 05/11/09; AFP - 04/11/09; AP - 03/11/09)

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Serbian war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said on Wednesday (November 4th) he hopes the UN report will recognise his country's "complete co-operation" in trying to bring two fugitives to justice. [AFP]

Serbia's leaders assured chief UN prosecutor Serge Brammertz on Thursday (November 5th) that Belgrade is making every effort to capture the two remaining war crimes indictees sought by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Serbia "is searching intensively" for former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic and former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic, President Boris Tadic said in a statement issued after his talks with Brammertz.

He arrived for a two-day visit to Belgrade on Wednesday to review Serbia's co-operation with The Hague tribunal, including its efforts to catch the fugitives. Brammertz is due to report to the UN Security Council on the matter next month.

The ICTY's latest amended 15-count indictment against Mladic charges him with war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), including persecutions, extermination and murder, deportation, inhuman acts and hostage-taking. He also faces two charges of genocide over his alleged roles in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys and the 43-month siege of Sarajevo.

Europe's most wanted war crimes indictee lived under army protection in Serbia until 2002, Mladic's former chief of security told a Belgrade court in June.

Both he and Hadzic, who is charged with war crimes for his role in the 1991-1995 conflict in Croatia, are widely believed to be hiding in Serbia.

Arresting the two is a "priority for the Serbian government", Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic said following his meeting with Brammertz on Thursday.

The chief UN prosecutor "expressed satisfaction with Serbia's level of co-operation with the tribunal and praised the efficiency of all competent bodies", a government statement noted.

During his visit, Brammertz met also with the head of Serbia's council for co-operation with the ICTY, Rasim Ljajic, and the country's war crimes prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic.

"We have jointly acknowledged that there are almost no open issues regarding the accessibility of archives, access to documents and the releasing of witnesses of the obligation to keep secrets," Ljajic told Belgrade-based Beta news agency after his talks with Brammertz. "The only remaining open issue is the arrest of the two suspects."

Full co-operation with the ICTY is a key condition for Serbia's EU integration progress.

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Vukcevic told Reuters in an interview Thursday that Serbia has the "political will" to meet that requirement. He also believed that "Mladic will be arrested by the end of the year," although a majority of Serbs are opposed to his capture, according to a recent poll.

The Serbian prosecutor voiced hope that Brammertz's upcoming report will recognise his country's "complete co-operation" in efforts to bring the two fugitives to justice. He also told Reuters that another 16 individuals would be detained soon. They are suspected of involvement in the killings of a total of 45 people in three separate cases during the conflicts in BiH and Croatia.

In April 2008, Serbia signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the Union, a major first step towards eventual membership in the 27-nation bloc, as well as an Interim Trade Agreement. Both are yet to be activated.

The SAA will be submitted to parliaments for ratification and the implementation of the Interim Agreement will start as soon as EU leaders decide that Serbia fully co-operates with the ICTY, according to the European Commission.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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