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Former Yugoslavia: U.S. Calls For Punishment Of War Criminals

Warsaw, 20 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. official called yesterday at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to show more determination in demanding punishment for war criminals in the former Yugoslavia.

David Scheffer, U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, told the OSCE conference on human rights in Warsaw that Veselin Sljivancanin, Milan Mrksic and Miroslav Radic, whom he identified as responsible for killing of civilians and wounded soldiers in the Croatian town of Vukovar, remain at large in Serbia. Scheffer said that the three should be brought to face trial in the Hague as quickly as possible. The failure of the Serb authorities, particularly President Slobodan Milosevic, to apprehend and transfer these "Vukovar 3" to the Hague merits "public condemnation and diplomatic and economic pressure of this organization and of every OSCE government," he said. Scheffer said Serbia's authorities are trying to blame their extradition law for preventing the three criminals to be transferred to the Hague. "But it is instructive that no effort has been made by Serb authorities to change their domestic law in order to overcome their own discredited legal obstacles to transfer of the Vukovar 3," he said. "The time has arrived for the OSCE to challenge Belgrade on this fundamental issue of compliance."

He added Serbia and Montenegro will not join the international community as long as their territory serves as a sanctuary for individuals indicted by the Yugoslav Tribunal.

Scheffer criticized also the Bosnian Serb authorities in Pale and Banja Luka saying they failed to transfer a single indictee so far. "We all must ensure that Radovan Karadzic and Radko Mladic know that they have no friends and no opportunities for sanctuary anywhere within the OSCE,' he said. Scheffer praised the government of Croatia for facilitating the nine Bosnian Croat indictees to surrender to the Tribunal and transfer to the Hague of another apprehended Bosnian Croat. But he also noted that Ivica Rajic, another notorious criminal, is still at large and nothing is being done to arrest him. "As a member of the OSCE, Croatia has a special responsibility to cooperate fully with its international obligations,' he said. Scheffer said the establishment of the Tribunal to judge Yugoslav war criminals sent a clear signal across Europe, Asia and the rest of the world that individuals who committed war crimes can face justice. He said it is also a reminder for the governments to use the OSCE instruments and other diplomatic initiatives to resolve disputes and stop a criminal behavior before it inflicts massive injury to the public. Scheffer called on the OSCE to establish a permanent criminal court to be ready to prosecute crimes which may occur in the future.

He said such a permanent international criminal court should be set up by the end of this century to deter war crimes and be a warning to individuals who threaten " our collective future with genocidal ambitions."