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Balkan Report: August 31, 1999

31 August 1999, Volume 3, Number 34

Big Fish Lands In The Hague (or The Perils Of Attending Conferences). The arrest of the highest-ranking Bosnian Serb war criminal to date may jeopardize cooperation between the Republika Srpska and the international community. It also turns up the heat on indicted war criminals--or those who think they might be.

The Bosnian Serb delegation left an OSCE-sponsored military conference in Vienna soon after army chief-of-staff General Momir Talic's arrest there on 25 August. He later arrived in The Hague. Upon returning to Banja Luka, Bosnian Serb delegation leader and Defense Minister Manojlo Milovanovic expressed indignation at what had happened.

The war crimes tribunal had indicted Talic in secret for crimes against humanity in conjunction with the ethnic cleansing of the Prijedor and Sanski Most areas in 1992, when Talic commanded the First Krajina Corps. Some 100,000 non-Serbs were forced to flee in the brutal operation. Many were sent to grisly detention camps such as Omarska or Trnopolje. Some were raped or died. NATO forces in Bosnia arrested former Bosnian Serb Deputy Prime Minister Radoslav Brdjanin on similar charges in July. He and Talic featured in the same secret indictment from 14 March.

Talic's arrest in Austria is the first detention of a major war criminal outside the former Yugoslavia. BBC Television reported on 26 August that top NATO peacekeepers, including General Sir Mike Jackson, often met with Talic in Bosnia but "did not feel confident enough to arrest him on his own turf." NATO commanders approved then President Biljana Plavsic's decision to name him chief-of-staff in February 1998, AP noted.

At The Hague, spokesman Paul Risley stressed "that neither the OSCE nor Austria had been informed [in advance] that [Talic] had been charged," AFP reported. Risley added that the practice of indicting war criminals in secret has proven "most effective," the BBC Serbian Service added. Vienna's "Die Presse" noted that the tribunal informed the Austrian Foreign Ministry of the indictment only on 24 August. That ministry then relayed the information to the Justice Ministry, which in turn told the police.

Following the arrest, the reaction of the Bosnian Serb leadership was fast and furious. It included persons from across the political spectrum. Moderate Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said in Banja Luka that the arrest was an "inappropriate action" that "ignored the basic code of diplomatic behavior." Dodik added that "the government is deeply concerned about the safety of any of its citizens.... [It now appears that] anyone can be arrested anywhere, at any time. There is considerable doubt that Bosnia Serb representatives will take part in any future international meetings."

Zivko Radisic, who is the Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency, said that the tribunal's use of secret indictments may "pose a serious obstacle to the functioning of the institutions of the Republika Srpska," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that the arrest threatens to jeopardize future cooperation between the Bosnian Serbs and the international community.

Plavsic said that the arrest could lead to a "revolt" among Serbs. The Socialists' Dragutin Ilic called the move "completely immoral." A spokesman for Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party demanded that Talic be freed immediately. The spokesman added: "The secret indictments exist only at The Hague tribunal and are aimed only at the Serbs." Bosnian Serb Vice President Mirko Sarovic called the arrest "humiliating" and a harbinger of "the preparations against us." He did not elaborate.

British Balkan expert Christopher Bennett said, however, that the top Bosnian Serb leaders can do little in the face of indictments from The Hague. Bennett added that the leaders "are all terrified that they are next," Reuters reported.

But among soldiers on the ground, it was business as usual. Lieutenant-General Michael Willcocks, who is SFOR's deputy commander for operations, held "detailed discussions" with Bosnian Serb Colonel-General Novica Simic, who is Talic's acting deputy, in Banja Luka on 25 August, an SFOR spokesman said the next day. The two top officers agreed to continue cooperation. The spokesman stressed that SFOR and the Bosnian Serb military work together on a "good footing," Reuters reported. He also noted that it was Austrian police and not SFOR who arrested Talic.

Some other Westerners, however, did not distance themselves from the coup against Talic. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in a statement in London that Talic's arrest proves that "the international community has not forgotten about the war crimes committed in Bosnia as we will not forget the crimes committed in [Kosova] until all those indicted appear at The Hague" tribunal. In Washington, State Department spokesman James Foley added that "the arrest of General Talic underscores the need for new military leadership in the Republika Srpska to go along with the new political leadership there," Reuters reported. It is not clear which "new political leadership" he meant.

But not all outside reaction was supportive of the tribunal. The pro-Milosevic Belgrade daily "Novosti" called the arrest "an unheard of scandal." The Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" also stressed that it was most improper and outrageous to arrest an invited participant at an international conference.

The Yugoslav Foreign Ministry issued a statement in which it called the arrest a "kidnapping." The statement added: "This is an unprecedented trick, reminiscent of the dark era of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages and not of a Europe on the threshold of the third millennium. It was carried out with the assistance of Austria. By its complicity in this crime, Austria, which holds the position of high representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, fully exposed its anti-Serb stance."

At a Belgrade press conference, Socialist Party spokesman Ivica Dacic said that the OSCE "showed itself to be an ordinary dirty weapon in the hands of the U.S. administration." Hard-line leader Vojislav Seselj noted that his Radical Party does not recognize the authority of the Hague tribunal. He added, however, that the politically moderate "Talic got what he deserved."

The Russian Foreign Ministry took the same line as its Belgrade counterpart. It said in a statement that "each particular act of detaining individuals accused of war crimes...should take into account first and foremost how it will influence the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the implementation of the peace agreement. Talic was taking part in a seminar...on the military aspects of implementing the peace agreement, at the invitation of the foreign minister of Austria. It is not difficult to see how this arrest will affect the further participation of Bosnian delegations in international forums."

The Russian statement also expressed "serious doubt" about the practice of issuing secret indictments, which it said "deprives Bosnian authorities and the accused themselves of the opportunity to demonstrate their readiness to cooperate with the tribunal," Reuters reported. The statement failed to note how many publicly indicted war criminals either have turned themselves in or have been arrested and deported by the Republika Srpska. (Patrick Moore)

Hague Court Files Complaint Against Croatia. Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, who heads the Hague-based tribunal, said in a letter to the UN Security Council on 25 August that the Croatian government refuses "to cooperate with the international tribunal." Specifically, Croatia refuses "to recognize the international tribunal's jurisdiction over alleged criminal activity." The Zagreb authorities have also declined to "surrender and transfer" indicted suspects, she continued.

In Zagreb, Croatian Justice Minister Zvonimir Separovic told Croatian television that his government "rejects claims that it does not cooperate with the tribunal." He repeated his previous claims that the authorities will prove that they do cooperate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1999).

In Washington, several U.S. officials warned the Croatian authorities that they face "grave consequences" if they do not cooperate with the court. (Patrick Moore)

Muslim Camp Inmates Charge Croats Used Forced Labor. A group of Muslim former concentration camp inmates from the Mostar area said in a statement that the Croatian director of the Mostar aluminum processing plant used Muslim inmates as slave labor in 1993-1994, "Jutarnji list" reported on 25 August. Mijo Brajkovic, who is still the plant's director, is also a leading member of the Bosnian branch of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community. In a 1997 document, the OSCE linked Brajkovic to war crimes, the Zagreb daily added. (Patrick Moore)

Muslim Leader Says Tudjman Should Go To Hague. Deputy Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic, who is one of the leading Bosnian Muslim politicians, told "Jutarnji list" of 25 August that Tudjman is responsible for the 1993-1994 war between Croats and Muslims. Silajdzic stressed that Tudjman should appear before the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to account for his actions in conjunction with that conflict. The Muslim leader added that Tudjman should have no qualms about going to The Hague if he believes that he is innocent.

Later that day, the Croatian Foreign Ministry delivered a formal protest to its Bosnian counterpart. The note firmly rejected Silajdzic's charges, which it called irresponsible speculation by a private individual.

But Silajdzic held his ground. He told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 28 August that Tudjman's role in the conflict is a "known fact." The Muslim leader added that current policies pursued by the authorities throughout the region are aimed at consolidating the results of ethnic cleansing and setting up three ethnically pure "statelets." Silajdzic stressed that the international community shares in the blame. (Patrick Moore)

UCK Gives List Of Suspected War Criminals To KFOR. Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) officials recently handed KFOR officials a list with the names of 500 Serbian paramilitaries suspected of involvement in war crimes, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported on 23 August. Some of these suspects are believed to be hiding in Rahovec and Hoca e Madhe. It is unclear whether the arrest of three war crimes suspects by KFOR on 20 August was linked to a tip-off by the UCK. The guerrillas say that they found the names in captured Serbian records. (Fabian Schmidt)

Kosova Serb Cantonization Proposal A 'Non-Starter.' Several Western diplomats told Reuters on 24 August that Kosovar Serb leader Momcilo Trajkovic's proposal to set up Serbian "cantons" in Kosova is unacceptable (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 1999). "The Serbs have asked for cantons, a sort of partition so Kosovo would be divided up with at least one or two areas where Serbs would control their own municipal council," said Bryan Hopkinson, who is director of the International Crisis Group (ICG) and a former British diplomat in the Balkans. "One of the enclaves almost certainly would be in the north, above Mitrovica. That would give the Serbs control over much of Kosova's most valuable mines and mineral rights.

"For that reason, and because the Serbs no longer hold many cards in Kosovo, cantonization is a non-starter. We don't want to end up with de facto partition here as we did in Bosnia. But if we rule out partition, what's left?"

Meanwhile, the final word has yet to be spoken on the cantonization proposal. (Patrick Moore)

Russian Commander Says 'You Shoot Only Once.' RFE/RL's Jolyon Naegle reported on the Rahovec imbroglio from the scene on 25 August. The deputy commander of the Russian KFOR base at Malisheva, Lt. Colonel Nikolai Grechishnikov, says the dispute with the residents of Rahovec over Russian entry into the town will be resolved peacefully. In his words: "The Russian contingent's policy is that there will be no seizure, no shooting, no Blitzkrieg, no rash movement, but only negotiations to ensure normal life."

Malisheva--which like Rahovec is in the Llapush region, a traditional UCK bastion--is also a hotbed of anti-Russian feeling. In Grechishnikov's words, "some people here don't know how to behave." He says some Malisheva residents are committing what he terms "provocations" against Russian forces day and night. He declines to go into detail but does add that the provocations range from minor to serious. "There have been times when shooting by the Russian troops would have been in order. But the most important thing is to talk even a thousand times, because you shoot only once," he added. (Fabian Schmidt)

Milosevic's Mentor Discusses His Pupil's Fate. Former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic recently gave several interviews to the Serbian-language media about the current political scene. Slobodan Milosevic, who had been Stambolic's protege, overthrew his mentor 12 years ago in an important stage on his road to power.

Stambolic stressed that Milosevic has painted himself into a corner. The Serbian leader can no longer think of creative alternatives to ensure he remains in power, nor can he leave office quietly. Dictators "do not know how to leave power in a normal way, and that is the problem. In the same way in which they got into power, they will be removed from power. Whoever comes to power through violence, will lose his power through violence. And nobody can hold onto power indefinitely through violence.

"Therefore I think it is important that all opposition parties do their best to achieve a peaceful solution through massive demonstrations. Those who try to take others' heads in their struggle to remain in power will eventually lose their own heads as well." (Translated by Fabian Schmidt)

Seselj's Party Seeks 'Dialogue.' Ultranationalist Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party issued a statement in Belgrade on 24 August calling for a "public dialogue" of all political parties represented in parliament in order to end the political crisis. The statement added: "With this [dialogue] we will be able to show up the political demagoguery of all political elements trying to fool our people with false stories about American and European treasure chests awaiting us just around the corner--just after the ouster of government," AP reported. The reference was to Western pledges of aid to Serbia once Milosevic leaves office. (Patrick Moore)

Djindjic To Learn From Bulgarians. Serbian Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic, on a two-day visit to Bulgaria, told BTA on 26 August that Serbian opposition activists will come to Bulgaria to study the experience of the governing Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) in forming a unified opposition. He said that the SDS's experience can help the Serbian opposition overcome its myriad differences. Djindjic met on 26 August with Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and SDS deputy chairwoman Ekaterina Mihailova, and the next day with Deputy Premier Evgeni Bakardzhiev and Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski. (Michael Shafir)

Regime Biding Its Time? Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle said in Banja Luka on 25 August that he recently urged Serbian President Milan Milutinovic to resign and make way for a transitional government. Milutinovic told the Patriarch that one just needs to wait until the West changes its mind about the need for elections in Serbia. The Patriarch replied to the president that the issue is not what the West wants but what the Serbian people want, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. (Patrick Moore)

Council Of Europe Says 'No' To Milosevic Elections. Lord Russell Russell-Johnston, who chairs the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, said in Strasbourg on 25 August that the council will not send any election monitors to Serbia so long as Milosevic is in power. Lord Russell-Johnston stressed that the council will not involve itself in elections announced by persons whom the Hague tribunal has indicted for war crimes, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. (Patrick Moore)

Bildt: Reform Must Accompany Reconstruction. Carl Bildt, who is UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan's senior envoy to the Balkans, said in New York that southeastern Europe needs thorough-going political and economic reforms in addition to development assistance. Bildt stressed that old-style communist systems remain in place in much of the region, and that "crony capitalism" predominates in some post-communist societies like Croatia and Bosnia, the "International Herald Tribune" reported on 30 August. Bildt identified Serbia as the core of the problem. "It's such a big chunk of land in the middle of the Balkans that if it does not reform itself, it will be very difficult to do anything substantial with the rest. Serbia is the core nation of the region," Bildt concluded. (Patrick Moore)

Klein Says Herzegovinian Mafia Blocking Croatia's Path To Europe. Former U.S. General Jacques Klein has worn many hats on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. His latest is as the UN's special envoy to Bosnia.

Klein told "Jutarnji list" of 23 August that the key problem throughout Bosnia is that often the people responsible for the war have remained in power. Such people are incapable of building peace. Their interest is in money and power--and nothing else.

For such individuals, democracy and the free market are anathema. They also abhor open frontiers and political normalization. They are in their element in a setting of medieval city-states, where customs stations exist every five kilometers along the roads. Unfortunately, such is the situation in much of Bosnia-Herzegovina today, Klein noted.

These mafia structures make deliberate use of extreme nationalism to hold onto power. They drive from village to village in their Mercedes cars to incite the locals to hate people of a different ethnic background. Ordinary people are justified in asking what such kingpins have ever done for them.

What happens in western Herzegovina is ultimately the responsibility of Zagreb, Klein continued. Unless the Croatian authorities break the power of the mafia structures, Zagreb will remain in international disrepute. And the Herzegovinian mafia will, in effect, continue to bar Croatia's path to integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. (Patrick Moore)

Muslims To End Support For Dodik? Members of the Muslim-led Coalition for a Democratic and United Bosnia-Herzegovina said they will stop backing the caretaker government of moderate Serbian leader Milorad Dodik unless his government does more to facilitate the return of Muslim and Croatian refugees to the Republika Srpska. Dodik's minority government depends on the support of Muslim and Croatian deputies in parliament, Reuters reported from Banja Luka on 24 August. (Patrick Moore)

Petritsch Wants Better Pay For Bosnian Judges. A spokesman for the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch said in Sarajevo on 24 August that the governments of the Republika Srpska and the mainly Croatian and Muslim federation should pay judges more in order to discourage corruption. The spokesman stressed that an independent and efficient judiciary is essential for a society based on the rule of law. He made the statement after federal Supreme Court President Venceslav Ilic complained that judges' salaries have not been paid since May. A judge makes a maximum of $480 per month, Reuters reported. (Patrick Moore)

Slovenian Archbishop Stirs Up Controversy. Ljubljana Archbishop France Rode told Vatican Radio on 23 August that he stands by his recent controversial remarks that the Slovenian government and society remain heavily influenced by communist ideology. Rode said on Vatican Radio that "secular liberalism" is the dominant world outlook in Slovenia and that the Roman Catholic Church finds itself "thrust to the margins of society." He added that many government officials have a communist background and retain much of their communist ideological baggage. Similar individuals control the media and use their position to attack the Church, the archbishop charged. "Old Marxists also run the schools," Rode added. He noted that some officials have broken with their communist background and stressed that the Church will work with such people.

A recent opinion poll suggests that a clear majority of Slovenes disagrees with Rode. That majority fears that the Church is trying to muscle its way back to the prominent position it enjoyed in Slovenian politics and society before 1941, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 21 August. Perhaps few parts of the former Yugoslavia were as strongly affected as Slovenia by the communists' campaigns to eliminate religious belief. (Patrick Moore)

Albanian NGO Says 30,000 Women In Prostitution Rackets. Albania's non-governmental Women in Development Association published a report on 23 August, estimating that about 30,000 women are being exploited as prostitutes by racketeers in Western countries, dpa reported. The association said that local criminal gangs buy girls from poor families for an average of $1,000 and sell them primarily to Italy and Greece for twice that amount. The report adds that under-age virgins can be sold for up to $10,000.

Another racket involves luring girls with promises of marriage or jobs abroad. Once in Italy or Greece, they are often subjected to mass rape and violence before being exploited as prostitutes. Prostitution is illegal in Albania, but the association conducted an opinion poll according to which 53 per cent of Albanians favor legalizing it. (Fabian Schmidt)

Russia Delivers Missile Systems To Greece. The first four out of 21 Russian TOR anti-aircraft missile systems for the Greek army arrived in Thessaloniki on 20 August, AP reported. The Greek Defense ministry paid 56 billion drachmas ($180.6 million) for the systems. Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said the purchase is "very important" for upgrading Greece's air defenses. AP noted that the short-range missiles are part of a major arms buildup aimed at "keeping pace with Turkey." Fifteen Russian military advisers will train Greek personnel in the use of the systems. (Fabian Schmidt)

Quotations Of The Week. "The regime in Serbia must be replaced in the same way that, I hope, the regimes in Britain and the United States will soon be replaced." -- Vuk Draskovic, quoted by AP on 23 August.

"Our concept is to weaken Milosevic so much that he can no longer rig the vote." -- Djindjic, quoted by AP on 25 August.

"We will always vote for whoever is in power." -- Resident of western Serbia, quoted in "Le Monde" of 26 August.

"God will punish those [i.e. NATO] who created this great misfortune in Yugoslavia. Nothing goes unpunished in this life." -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, to a group of Serbian schoolchildren in Minsk on 25 August.

"KFOR is hesitating and has given the Kosovars [in Rahovec] two weeks to think matters over. The Russians will continue to swelter in their tanks. The Albanians have scored a partial victory with their stubbornness. Not just Moscow but the whole international community has once again been duped in Kosova." -- "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," 26 August.

"It would take some three years to put the Bosnian educational system in line with European standards." -- Oleg Milisic, a spokesman for the international community's Wolfgang Petritsch, to Reuters in Sarajevo on 23 August.

"Returning to the scene of the crime." -- Headline in the pro-Milosevic daily "Novosti" on 26 August, describing Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's latest trip to the Balkans.