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Western Press Review: War Crimes Suspects Arrested

  • Ron Synovitz

Prague, 14 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Western newspapers continue to comment today on developments in Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Opinion columns are filled with commentary about moves by the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) last week to capture indicted war crimes suspects.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: NATO Weighs Risks Of Major Arrests

A news analysis by Edward Cody in today's newspaper says that the only decisive way to arrest ousted Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his wartime commander, General Ratko Mladic, would be to risk a high number of casualties amongst NATO forces. But Cody notes that "so far, the Clinton administration and its military have been unwilling to accept risks." Cody says: "Mr. Karadzic lives in Pale, the Bosnian Serbs' capital, surrounded by at least 100 well-armed guards from the Special Police Brigade." And he reports that Mladic "has spent most of his time at a base with bunkers in Han Pijesak, about 50 kilometers northeast of Sarajevo."

Cody says the shooting death of indicted war crimes suspect Simo Drijaca, a former Prijedor police chief who reportedly fired at British NATO troops when they tried to arrest him last week, has "eliminated one of the key security officials in the Serb Republic." Cody writes: "Although Mr. Drijaca was forced to step down last year as police chief in Prijedor, he continued to act as an enforcer in the government. Most important, Mr. Drijaca was a logistics assistant to Bosnian Serbs interior minister, Dragan Kijac. In that role, he was in charge of cloaking other policemen and former soldiers accused of war crimes, providing them with false documents and safe houses." Cody says Drijaca also was nicknamed "Mr. 10 Percent" because of his role "in the black market run by Karadzic to finance his unofficial authority."

LONDON GUARDIAN: Dricaja's Funeral Indicates Hero Status

A news analysis today by Karen Coleman in Sarajevo describes the live Bosnian Serb television broadcast of Drijaca's funeral as a propaganda bonanza for Karadzic. Coleman says: "The commentator's rhetoric recalled the war days, when media propaganda played a big role in whipping up Serb emotion against Muslims and Croats." Coleman notes that the Bosnian Serb television announcer referred to last week's NATO operation against Drijaca as "murder" and "a professional crime." Coleman concludes that: "Although (Drijaca) was indicted for complicity in genocide against Muslims and Croats, the huge turnout (at his funeral) demonstrated how much he was loved by his own people and that he will always be a hero in the eyes of many Serbs."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Fear of Reprisals Paralizes NATO

An editorial today says that last week's NATO operation "had several immediate political payoffs. For the Clinton Administration. It helped avert a threat in the Senate Friday to cut off aid for the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia (and) the operation also calmed the rising chorus of calls for action against war criminals." But the newspaper says that if the operation was a "one off, meant primarily to defuse pressure for more action or send a message, then it will ultimately fail to change the situation on the ground: The war criminals who undermine any hope of peaceful coexistence and the rebuilding of civil society in Bosnia may retreat to their hideaways for a while, but they will soon return."

The Wall Street Journal concludes that the real reason "NATO forces have not been deployed to help refugees return to their homes," or to arrest war crimes suspects, is "a fear of reprisals. That fear, as at least Secretary of State Madeleine Albright seems to understand, has paralyzed the Dayton implementation process." It says: "The greatest threat to the Dayton peace accords has been inaction on the part of those charged with enforcing them. NATO must avoid the pinprick mentality when it comes to war-crimes arrests. Bosnia remains deeply divided along ethnic lines, local government is weak, corruption rampant and the wounds of war left exposed to all sorts of infection. War criminals remain the greatest impediment to peaceful coexistence and the rebuilding of civil society."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: For Karadzic, A Nightmare Begins

In today's newspaper, Peter Munch comments that Americans have now made it clear that they want indicted war crimes suspects to be arrested and brought to justice at the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague. Munch writes: "Mr. Karadzic's peaceful nights are over - for him a nightmare begins."

Meanwhile, in a separate news analysis, Munch quotes United Nations officials as downplaying the danger that a Bosnian Serb uprising might result if Karadzic or Mladic is arrested by NATO forces. Munch quotes UN officials as saying that there may be short term problems, "but in the long run everything would be easier if all those who are responsible at the top for the war and for the sluggish peace process would be arrested." Munch concludes: "Prijedor's action could be a test action to see how the Serbs will react. Everything remained calm. Nevertheless, all heads of humanitarian organizations are being told by the police forces to be extra cautious."
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