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Yugoslavia: Serb General Surrenders To War Crimes Tribunal

The Hague, 25 April 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Yugoslavia's former army commander, General Dragoljub Ojdanic, surrendered to the United Nations' international tribunal in The Hague today to face war crimes charges. Ojdanic has been indicted for atrocities committed by his troops during the campaign against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1998-1999. Some 800,000 ethnic Albanians then were forced to flee their homes and thousands were killed.

Ojdanic, who says the charges against him are unfounded, will make his first appearance in court tomorrow. Ojdanic is the first senior Serbian official indicted by the tribunal to voluntarily surrender rather than face possible arrest and handover.

The UN tribunal has indicted 23 people in Yugoslavia for war crimes committed during the Balkan wars in the early 1990s. Five other indictees have said they also are ready to surrender.

Tribunal officials today welcomed Ojdanic's surrender but said real cooperation with the court will come when Yugoslav authorities arrest those who do not want to surrender.

Tribunal spokesman Jim Landale welcomed the transfer and said: "We welcome the transfer of General Ojdanic, we hope that his arrival marks the first step in a process that will eventually result in there being no remaining fugitives from international justice on the territory of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."

Five other indictees have said they also will soon surrender, following Yugoslavia's call last week for 23 fugitive war crimes suspects to turn themselves in.

The chief prosecutor for the UN war crimes tribunal, Carla Del Ponte, said today that NATO-led forces in the Balkans should do more to capture former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

Del Ponte has said she expects Karadzic to be in The Hague by October to face war crimes charges. NATO has failed in two recent attempts to capture Karadzic.

During a visit to Spain, the current holder of the rotating EU presidency, Del Ponte also said the European Union should do more to pressure Yugoslavia to hand over indictees wanted in connection with alleged crimes committed during the conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo during the 1990s.