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8/13/04 - BALKAN WAR CRIMINALS AT LARGE - 2004-08-09

More progress is necessary in the Balkans before all countries of the region can join a free and democratic Europe. There remain ethnic divisions, economic devastation, large numbers of refugees, and unguarded borders.

One of the most serious obstacles facing Serbia and Montenegro is the government’s failure to arrest war criminals -- in particular Ratko Mladic -- and hand them over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The country’s poor record on cooperation with the war crimes tribunal led the United States to cut off new assistance for Serbia last March. With the election of pro-reform president Boris Tadic in June, and with a democratic coalition in power in Belgrade, Serbia has the opportunity to cooperate fully with the war crimes tribunal.

The two most notorious war criminals in the Balkans, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, remain at large. The U.S. has offered a five-million dollar reward for information leading to their capture. These two fugitives stand accused of numerous war crimes, including genocide, in the 1995 slaughter of up to eight-thousand Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebenica. It was the worst massacre of civilians in Europe since the Second World War.

It is especially important to victims’ families that indicted war criminals in the former Yugoslavia are brought to justice, says Nerma Jelacic, director of the Independent Institute for War and Peace:

“I think it will bring peace to many people, I mean internal peace to people to the mothers and wives in Srebenica who survived. It will give peace to any people who have suffered direct losses because of Mladic’s actions.”

In a recent meeting with President Tadic in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell stressed the need for Serbia and Montenegro to cooperate with the war crimes tribunal:

“We spoke about the case of Mr. Mladic and that we had to try to do everything to we could collectively to bring him to justice."

Until that happens, Serbia and Montenegro will make little headway in their efforts to join the Euro-Atlantic community through membership in organizations like the European Union or programs like NATO’s Partnership for Peace.