General Radislav Krstic, who is accused of genocide relating to the massacre of thousands of Muslims in the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica, was seized by Nato-led peacekeepers on the road between the northern Bosnian towns of Brcko and Bijeljina on Wednesday.
His name never appeared on the UN's published list of those suspected of atrocities during Bosnia's civil war from 1992-95 between Serbs, Croats and Muslims. Instead, his was a "sealed indictment", which was revealed only after his capture.
"The legitimacy of so-called `secret' lists ... gives rise to the most serious doubts," the Russian Foreign Ministry said yesterday. The effectiveness of sealed indictments has been strongly defended by the UN Chief Prosecutor in The Hague, Louise Arbour.
Moscow's complaint contrasted strongly with the jubilant reaction to General Krstic's arrest from Washington and from survivors of the July 1995 slaughter in Srebrenica. Most are women who last saw their men being led by the Bosnian Serbs on to buses to "detention centres", from which they never returned.
According to the indictment, General Krstic and his commander, the Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic, "expelled or killed" most adult male Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica after the town fell to the Serbs.
The town was officially declared by the UN to be a "safe haven" but the Dutch UN peacekeepers stationed in Srebrenica did not defend the enclave when the Serbs overran it.
"Since 13 July 1995 I've never felt happiness in my heart," one survivor, Kada Hotic, was quoted as saying in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, "but when I heard he [Krstic] was arrested, I felt happy."
Other survivors said they hoped he would at least tell them where their sons and husbands were buried. About 6,000 men from Srebrenica are "missing", presumed dead. The indictment accused the general of "direct personal involvement" in the mass killing.
The arrest has again raised hopes in Bosnia of the imminent arrest of General Mladic and his political boss, Radovan Karadzic. Chris Bennett at the Sarajevo-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said: "All of these people will have to watch it."
Although General Krstic will appear in court on Monday to enter a plea his trial may not start for months.Reuse content