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4/26/03 - SERBIA CRACKS DOWN ON CRIMINALS - 2003-04-28

Following the assassination of Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic on March 12th, the Serbian government imposed a state of emergency and initiated a campaign against organized crime. The Serbian police detained more than ten-thousand people for questioning, and about three-thousand two-hundred remain in custody. The state of emergency was lifted on April 22nd.

Milorad “Legija” Lukovic is the leader of the Zemun crime syndicate and former leader of the now disbanded police Special Operations Unit, or Red Berets. He is believed to be the mastermind behind the assassination of Mr. Djindjic. The Red Berets were responsible for ethnic cleansing and murder in the 1990s under former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. Lukovic remains at large. The deputy chief of the Red Berets, Zvezdan Jovanovic, confessed to being the triggerman in Mr. Djindjic’s assassination.

The crackdown on organized crime in Serbia has resulted in the arrest of former Yugoslav army commander Miroslav Radic who surrendered to Serbian police on April 21st. Radic is one of the “Vukovar Three,” a group of army officers indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague for the 1991 massacre of at least two-hundred fifty-five men and women taken from a hospital during the siege of the Croatian city of Vukovar. Radic will be extradited to The Hague to stand trial.

Although significant progress has been made following Mr. Djindjic’s assassination, the effort to dismantle organized crime in Serbia and apprehend war criminals is not yet complete. “Every state has its mafia,” Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said. “But we had the problem in Serbia that the mafia wanted to have its own state.” A full accounting for crimes committed during the Milosevic era will help Serbia move forward with economic and political reforms.