Serbs give up duo suspected of war crimes

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The Independent Online


Under intense pressure from Washington, Belgrade has surrendered to the international war-crimes tribunal two soldiers who confessed to involvement in the murder of hundreds of Muslims.

Zagreb is expected to compound a good weekend for the tribunal today, handing over a senior Bosnian Croat commander indicted for alleged massacres of Muslims in 1993.

Drazen Erdemovic, a Croat, and Radoslav Kremenovic, both soldiers in the Bosnian Serb army, were transferred to the court in the Hague on Saturday as witnesses and possible war-crimes suspects.

The two, seeking protection from former comrades, told reporters they had been forced to take part in the massacre of more than 900 Bosnian Muslim men captured after the fall of Srebrenica last July.

Mr Erdemovic, who said he was an unwilling participant in the mass killings at Branjevo farm, near Janja, in eastern Bosnia, went into hiding last year, fearing retribution from other soldiers at the site.

He was arrested in Serbia hours after talking to reporters, but Belgrade, which has delayed on promises to co-operate with the court, was persuaded to turn the two men over. Court officials have said they may be indicted for war crimes.

Belgrade's fear may be that their testimony is likely to bolster the indictments of the Bosnian Serb civilian and military leaders, Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, accused in the disappearance of up to 8,000 people from Srebrenica. Speaking on a visit to Sarajevo yesterday, the US Defense Secretary, William Perry, said: "I do not expect either Karadzic or Mladic to be in positions of power by the end of this year."

Mr Karadzic appears to think differently. He emerged from the shadows yesterday to address a rally of Serb troops and be feted as leader of his nation. Ignoring thousands of Nato troops in nearby Sarajevo who are supposed to arrest him should they cross his path, Mr Karadzic appeared at a factory building in the Serb "capital" of Pale to hand out medals to Bosnian Serb fighters.

Croatia, equally loath to hand over its clients to the Hague, has also agreed to US demands that General Tihomir Blaskic, former head of the Bosnian Croat militia, surrender to the court. He is expected to turn himself in today, accused of ordering the murders of Muslims during the Muslim-Croat war in Bosnia in 1993.