Bosnians free Serb prisoners

Gracanica - The Bosnian government released 109 Serb prisoners just before a Saturday midnight deadline, marching them in a column toward a darkened bridge and waiting relatives on Serb territory.

Earlier, delays in the promised release of prisoners brought threats that further stalling would be met by international sanctions.

"The time for words has passed. We expect deeds," the European High Representative, Carl Bildt, said after the group of countries overseeing the Bosnia peace process met in Moscow on Saturday.

In Sarajevo on Sunday, the commander of Nato ground forces in Bosnia, Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Walker, said he welcomed the release "but cannot consider it to be full compliance until all prisoners are released."

He said the Nato-led implementation force would continue to assist the Red Cross in "their efforts to release all prisoners until this crucial commitment is fulfilled."

Colum Murphy, a spokesman for Mr Bildt, who is overseeing implementation of civilian aspects of the Dayton peace accord, also said the release fell short of the agreement. He said the Bosnian government is still holding 26 prisoners in Tuzla. "Measures to ensure compliance are being considered," Mr Murphy said.

The men released on Saturday night were bused from a Tuzla jail about 30 miles to a checkpoint manned by Swedish soldiers, near Gracanica.

Most were captured in the final weeks of Bosnia's war, last autumn. The few who spoke to reporters said they had been treated correctly in jail. "I hope somebody's waiting for me," said Zeljko Goric, 40.

At the Gracanica bridge, a Red Cross representative said all 109 men they had expected to be released had been freed. He expected further prisoner releases in the coming days.

If the releases do not go through, one measure to ensure compliance would be cuts in financial aid from foreign donors, officials said at the Moscow meeting.

During talks last week in Geneva, leaders of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia agreed to release remaining POWs by midnight Saturday night. The Nato- led peace force and the Red Cross had urged all the factions to honour their pledge.

In Pale, the Bosnian Serb headquarters near Sarajevo, a senior Serb leader said he was willing to co-operate, as long as the Red Cross guarantees that the Muslims and Croats also release prisoners.

"The moment ICRC announces that the prisoners should be released, we will do that," Momcilo Krajisnik said. "But we cannot allow [ourselves] to be cheated."

Pierre Krahenbohl, the head of the Red Cross mission in Bosnian Serb territory, blamed the delay on technicalities.

Elsewhere in Bosnia, Nato announced US soldiers on Saturday had discovered and shut down four unauthorised police check-points set up by Bosnian Serbs and by the government.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is require...

Recruitment Genius: Logistics Supervisor

£24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest supplier to the UK'...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Junior Software Developer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate/Junior Software Deve...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Store Sales Executive

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Sales Executive ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn