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Bosnia: Clinton Urged To Pursue Bosnian War Criminals

Washington, 16 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Former U.S. Republican party presidential candidate Robert Dole and Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut) say they have urged President Bill Clinton to begin a full-time effort of apprehending and trying Bosnian war criminals.

Dole and Lieberman spoke to reporters Tuesday at a press conference held across the street from the U.S. Holocaust Museum where there are numerous grim exhibits chronicling the Nazis' systematic, state-sponsored genocide of millions of Jews and others during the Second World War.

The conference was sponsored by the Coalition for International Justice, a nonprofit, private organization representing more than 80 human rights, religious, ethnic, and minority groups across the United States.

Both men said America needed to exert "strong, moral leadership" in ensuring that those guilty of "horrendous crimes" and "genocide" in Bosnia are brought to justice.

Lieberman said: "The building behind us, the National Holocaust museum reminds us that there can never be real peace without justice ... As long as indicted war criminals like [Radovan] Karadzic and [Ratko] Mladic are allowed to roam free, to continue to exercise their noxious influence on the country and the people they sought to destroy, their victims remain shackled to a legacy of violence and terror, and the Dayton accords will never fully be implemented."

Both Dole and Lieberman have recently visited Bosnia and said they were appalled by the continued high profile of indicted figures such as Karadzic.

Lieberman said Karadzic was "thumbing his nose" at international order and justice, and that the continued freedom of such men was an "offense and insult to international morality and justice" as well as a practical obstacle to the implementation of the Dayton Accords.

Dole added that if those guilty of war crimes in Bosnia are not arrested, America will risk the investment of $7 billion of military and civilian personnel, prestige and influence.

Dole added: "This is where strong presidential leadership will come into play ... This must be the beginning of a full-time effort to bring war criminals to justice."

President Clinton said Tuesday he was concerned about possible Bosnian Serb retaliation for the recent decision to apprehend indicted war crimes suspects by NATO-led peacekeeping forces in Bosnia.

Clinton said Bosnian Serbs have "no call" to take any retaliatory action, and that it would be "a grave mistake to do so."

Both Lieberman and Dole acknowledged that there is "great risk" for those who try to apprehend Bosnian war criminals.

Lieberman said: "Is it worth running that risk in the interest of justice? Americans have always answered that question ... with a resounding yes."

Dole agreed: "My view is that we have to take some risks now for the sake of peace."

But Liberman said that the city of Pale, where Karadzic is often seen, is in the French-controlled zone of Bosnia, and that any operation to apprehend him and other war criminals who reside there would have to involve French troops.