Croat camp chief to face Hague tribunal

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Amsterdam - The UN war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia yesterday took custody of a Bosnian Croat prison camp commander, who is one of the first defendants to be charged with war crimes by the Bosnian Serbs.

Zdravko Mucic, named in a tribunal indictment last month, was handed over by Austrian police at Schiphol airport and was immediately taken to the tribunal's detention centre, near The Hague.

Mr Mucic, 41, was arrested in Vienna at the tribunal's request and will appear at a preliminary hearing at the tribunal in The Hague tomorrow.

The tribunal last month charged Mr Mucic and three Bosnian Muslims with war crimes against Bosnian Serbs.

Mr Mucic, charged with commanding the Celebici camp at Konjic, in central Bosnia, between May and November 1992, was identified last month by the Bosnian Serb news agency as a Croat.

The tribunal said he was accused of responsibility for crimes committed by his subordinates, including at least 14 murders, rape and torture. He was also accused of being responsible for causing great suffering and for forcing detainees to have oral sex with each other, it said.

Mr Mucic and his deputy, Hazim Delic, were indicted along with Zejnil Delalic, a Bosnian Muslim military commander, and a Celebici camp guard, Esad Landzo.

Mr Delalic, who was the commander of a unit of Bosnian Muslim forces from June to November 1992, was arrested by the German police in Munich last month.

The tribunal said then that it expected to take custody of Mr Mucic and Mr Delalic "within weeks".

Mr Landzo and Mr Delic are still at large, although the Bosnian authorities have given the tribunal assurances that the accused men will be arrested and handed over.

The two men were accused of beating men to death with wooden planks, baseball bats, shovels and pieces of cable, as well as torturing detainees, many in their sixties and seventies, with pliers, corrosives, electric currents and hot metal pincers.

On one occasion they were alleged to have nailed a Muslim political badge to a man's forehead. Mr Delic also faces two charges of multiple rape.

Mr Mucic is the second Croat to be taken into tribunal custody after a Bosnian Croat general, Tihomir Blaskic, gave himself up to the tribunal last week.

The tribunal now has four men in its custody from the 57 war crimes suspects it has charged. To date, the tribunal has indicted 46 Serbs, eight Croats and three Muslims.

The German authorities are also holding a Bosnian Serb, Goran Lajic, one of 13 Serbs charged last July with atrocities against Muslims at the Keraterm prison camp in Prijedor, north-west Bosnia. The tribunal has said it expects Mr Lajic to be transferred soon.