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South Slavic: August 19, 2004

19 August 2004, Volume 6, Number 28


Part II.

A program by Srdjan Kusovac of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service.

Some of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal's most-wanted indictees might soon arrive there for pretrial detention. Information about alleged ongoing negotiations is being leaked to the media across the region. Many Western officials have stressed recently that extradition is a precondition both for the further European integration of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro, and for permission from The Hague for any country in the region to try some war criminals in its own courts.

If negotiations are indeed under way, who is taking part? What do the intelligence services know about it? Are the intelligence services of Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Serbia and Montenegro working together on this? Will regional forces be willing and able to overpower the security guards of the indictees? With us to discuss these issues are: Neven Kazazovic, military analyst from Sarajevo; Zoran Dragisic, assistant professor at the Faculty of Civil Defense in Belgrade; and Vlatko Cvrtila, professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb and head of the Croatian parliamentary Council for Security Services Oversight.

Vlatko Cvrtila: Some well-informed people who are not part of the system are able to get in touch with any or each of the indictees, thus enabling the government and its intelligence or counterintelligence services to negotiate with them.

At the same time, in addition to the local intelligence people -- at least in the cases of [former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan] Karadzic and [former Bosnian Serb General Ratko] Mladic -- foreign intelligence services must be involved as well. They have been looking for the two men for at least 10 years....

I am deeply convinced that...the states in the region have always had the necessary connections and have only been waiting for the right moment to activate those connections in order to win some benefit or other from the international community.

RFE/RL: Do you think that any state is willing to take on the reportedly strong guard detachments protecting such men?

Cvrtila: The example of the extradition of Slobodan Milosevic [in June 2001] showed that it is possible for a state to extradite whom it wishes and control any negative reaction.... As time passes, fewer and fewer people regard such men as heroes, while more and more people see them as a liability for their country. This makes it easier to extradite them....

Neven Kazazovic: Security networks operate on several different levels. Some members of the bodyguard detachments are probably also working for one or other of the intelligence services and could thus help neutralize any potential resistance to arrest and extradition.... One would simply need a political and intelligence operation aimed at controlling the suspects' movements, and that's all.

We actually had a similar case at the end of World War II, with [monarchist resistance leader] Draza Mihajlovic. The fact is that Draza Mihajlovic was caught [by communist forces] thanks to an insider, meaning that there was a traitor very close to him. I would not be so sure that there aren't such individuals close to the Hague indictees today.

Zoran Dragisic: One thing is clear, both in the case of Ratko Mladic and in every other case: there is nobody stronger than the state. If a state decides to arrest someone, it will do so regardless of whether he has 1,000, 2,000, or 5,000 men to protect him. No doubt about it.

However, it will be necessary to avoid any sort of a showdown during Mladic's arrest. As I understand it, that is exactly what the negotiations are aimed at -- ensuring the peaceful surrender of Mladic, which would be the best solution for him, for those trying to arrest him, and for his security people.

RFE/RL: All our guests agree that political circumstances in all the countries of the region are now favorable for the arrest of the most wanted Hague indictees.

Kazazovic: The best thing for Bosnia-Herzegovina would be if the state as a whole -- not one of the entities -- carried out the arrests. That would be the best for the future of the country. However, if that does not seem wise or feasible, then the foreigners will have to decide to do it....

Dragisic: As far as Serbia is concerned, the situation has improved since Boris Tadic's victory in the [June] presidential elections, and it seems to me that our country now has a new democratic legitimacy in the eyes of the international community.....

The arrest and extradition of Ratko Mladic would take a heavy burden off our chests. I am not speculating about whether he is guilty or not. It is the job of the court to determine guilt and the duty of the Serbian government to enforce that decision.

Cvrtila: When it comes to the international standing of any or all the states in the region, the question of cooperation with the Hague tribunal overshadows everything....

The cooperation of most states is usually described as half-hearted or weak. Croatia is the only one that has made a significant improvement [recently], even though it still has blemishes on its record, such as the [former Croatian General Ante] Gotovina case.

As far as Serbia is concerned, Tadic's victory is the only good news from that part of the region. The next step is for him to prove that he means what he says.

However, it could be that nothing will come of all the current talk about surrenders, arrests, and extraditions. That was the case one year ago, too, when there was much speculation about wrapping up the Gotovina case [in Croatia]....

Music ("A Stranger in Belgrade" by Dejan Cukic):

The night is dark
There is nobody there,
The square is sleeping,
As well as Knez Mihajlova Street,
My town is slowly

Although I know every single street,
Although I have always lived here,
I cannot recognize this town.

I am not sure anymore
Whether I belong here,
Or I am just wandering through Belgrade, like a stranger.

I cannot go anymore
To my neighborhood.
The same buildings [are there] but
The stories are new.
And they are all so similar to this dark night.
Empty streets of Zvezdara,
All the way to Skadarlija,
I cannot recognize my town.