One of the most-wanted war crimes indictees in the Balkans has been arrested and transferred. Ante Gotovina, a former Croatian general, was taken into custody in Spain's Canary Islands and will face trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. The United States welcomes the news of Mr. Gotovina's arrest, said U.S. State Department Spokesman Adam Ereli:
"I would note that Mr. Gotovina was a fugitive who has been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The United States congratulates Croatian, Spanish, and Tribunal authorities for their efforts that led to his arrest."
For more than four years, Mr. Gotovina was Croatia's most wanted war crimes indictee. For most of that time, he was on the run. Mr. Gotovina was indicted in July 2001 on charges of overseeing the killings of at least one-hundred fifty ethnic Serbs and the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of others near the end of Croatia's 1991-95 civil war. Troops under his command are accused of poisoning wells, stealing livestock, and driving Serbs from their homes.
Croatia's failure to find and arrest Mr. Gotovina had put European Union and NATO membership for the Balkan nation on hold. But Croatia can now look toward joining the Euro-Atlantic community, says Mr. Ereli:
"This arrest is obviously a major step forward for Croatia on its road to eventual NATO membership and it was clearly therefore, in the best interest of Croatia. And we see it as a key step toward reconciliation in the region."
The arrest of Mr. Gotovina leaves still at large just six suspects indicted by The Hague Tribunal. The two most notorious are former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, his top military commander. It is up to the governments of Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with Bosnian Serb authorities and other relevant parties, to follow Croatia's lead and see these men arrested and handed over for trial.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.