UN war crimes team arrest Bosnian atrocities suspect

IN THEIR most audacious and controversial strike yet, UN prosecutors secured the arrest yesterday of an alleged leading Bosnian Serb war criminal in Vienna, where he was attending an international defence policy seminar.

General Momir Talic, chief of staff of the Bosnian Serbian army and a corps commander during the 1992-95 war, was seized by Austrian police, apparently unaware that his name featured on the list of "closed" or secret indictments drawn up by the War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

He is the most senior army figure yet detained on war crimes charges, a close collaborator of the Bosnian Serbs' wartime leader, Radovan Karadzic, and his military commander, Ratko Mladic - themselves both under indictment - and a prime mover in the ethnic cleansing in Serb-controlled areas of Bosnia. The arrest was carried out in the august surrounds of Austria's National Defence Academy where General Talic was attending a conference organised - with no small touch of irony - by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), primarily responsible for nursing the states of the former Yugoslavia towards a functioning democracy.

Reaction to the news last night in the Bosnian Serb republic of Srpska was predictably furious, amid claims that the hospitality offered by the Western-sponsored seminar had been abused. Some Bosnian Serbs were warning of mass revolt, though in practical terms there is little they can do in the face of the overwhelming military superiority of Nato forces in the S-For peacekeeping force in Bosnia. Demanding General Talic's immediate release, the republic's vice-president, Mirko Sarovic, described the arrest as a "humiliation" of his state, which only underscored the urgency of abolishing the system of sealed indictments, designed to avoid tipping off suspects that they were liable to be taken in. That will not happen.

As soon as his identity was established and the arrest warrent formally served, General Talic was due to be transferred to The Hague. There, he is likely to be put on trial alongside the former Bosnian Serb deputy prime minister, Radoslav Brdjanin, who was captured last month in Bosnia by S-For troops.

Both men are accused of crimes against humanity, on the grounds they planned and carried out the forced expulsion of more than 100,000 Muslims and Croats from the Prijedor region of north-western Bosnia in 1992. If convicted, they could be jailed for life.

But the fate of General Talic will be noted far beyond the Balkans and can only reinforce the so-called "Pinochet Syndrome" - the growing fear of dictators and their henchmen with dark human rights records to stray outside their country, and risk being hauled before a foreign tribunal. The former Chilean president's long involuntary sojourn in Britain is the most vivid case of its type.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water