Arrest of Serbs puts fragile peace in peril

Bosnia setback: Seized general and colonel accused of war crimes



The Bosnian Serb leadership, outraged by the arrest of eight Serb soldiers on war crimes charges, has suspended contacts with the Bosnian government, which yesterday invited the international war crimes tribunal to question the men.

"The city of Sarajevo has, sadly, become the Beirut of Europe," said a statement issued by the Serbs. It "has disqualified itself as a possible joint Serb, Muslim and Croat capital", and officials would boycott meetings in government-held areas. "We have decided to stop negotiations and not to go to the Muslim part any longer until we get the ... Serbs released," a spokesman, Dragan Bozanic, said from the Bosnian Serb headquarters at Pale, near Sarajevo.

There is much confusion surrounding the circumstances of the arrests - the eight, who include a general and a colonel - were detained between 20 January and 2 February, Nato said. The Serbs claim General Djordje Djukic and Colonel Aleksa Krsmanovic were driving to a meeting with Nato officers when they were arrested, but Nato officials said no meeting was scheduled at the time.

During the war General Djukic was in charge of organising arms and other supplies for Republika Srpska from Belgrade.

The news is likely to increase fears among Serbs living in the five Sarajevo suburbs that reverted to government rule at the weekend. Men in particular, almost all of whom wore uniform during the war, fear reprisals from Bosnian authorities, despite a promise of amnesty to all but "war criminals". A constant refrain from Serb troops is to ask who will judge what constitutes a war criminal as opposed to a common soldier waging war.

The government accused the two officers of ordering the killing of civilians, and participating in killings. It said three other men, arrested in a civilian car but carrying weapons, were suspected of killing civilians in eastern Bosnia. The last two were being held as witnesses to war crimes.

Bakir Alisphaic, the Bosnian Interior Minister, told reporters the government had a duty to make the arrests. "Since there exists evidence that both officers were involved in committing war crimes against civilians we were authorised and obliged to start an investigation," he said.

A spokesman for Nato's Implementation Force (I-For), Brigadier Andrew Cumming, agreed the government had a right to pursue suspected war criminals, but described the arrests as "provocative and inflammatory", adding that none of those detained had been indicted by the UN tribunal - unlike their boss, General Ratko Mladic, who remains at large in Serb-held territory.

"It would be a pity if this encouraged a retaliatory reaction," Brig Cumming said. "Everything is very fragile." However, I-For has adopted a low-key approach to the issue, despite Serb demands that it free the men. The Nato commander, Admiral Leighton Smith, has reacted in a temperate manner, merely issuing a statement saying the Bosnian government had assured him it would abide by the decision to prosecute or not made by delegates from the tribunal.

Three of the men were interviewed by tribunal officials yesterday, but officials said it was too early to report any finding. Gen Djukic, who is in his seventies, was a close aide to Gen Mladic, who runs the risk of arrest by I-For on war crimes charges and so has been forced to delegate negotiations with Nato to subordinates. Hasan Muratovic, the Bosnian Prime Minister, said the arrests were necessary: "There will be no peace in Bosnia until war criminals are taken to the Hague tribunal or some other court."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?