2 August 2001, Volume 3, Number 26
THE HAGUE AND BOSNIA: A ROUNDTABLE WITH THE THREE MEMBERS OF THE BOSNIAN JOINT PRESIDENCY.
Omer Karabeg: In today's Radio Most (Bridge), we are going to discuss the cooperation of Bosnia-Herzegovina with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Our guests are the three members of the joint Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina: President Jozo Krizanovic (a Croat), and members Zivko Radisic (a Serb), and Beriz Belkic (a Muslim).
My first question is: Does cooperation with The Hague tribunal fall within the competence of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina or within the competence of the two entities?
Jozo Krizanovic: As far as I know, there is a constitutional obligation of Bosnia-Herzegovina -- dating from the Dayton peace talks -- to cooperate with The Hague tribunal. This is why I think it is an obligation of the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Zivko Radisic: Bosnia-Herzegovina, as a member of the UN, cannot be exempted by the international community from its obligation to implement international agreements, including cooperation with The Hague tribunal. However, that does not mean that one can ignore the specific character of Bosnia-Herzegovina, namely that it is made up of two entities with equal rights.... It means that the entities cannot be excused from their obligation to cooperate with The Hague tribunal.
As a representative of the Serbian people and the Republika Srpska, I would like to say that the Republika Srpska will fulfill this obligation. A bill about cooperation with The Hague tribunal has just been prepared and hopefully will be approved by the parliament [editor's note: the measure passed on 25 July. See "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2001].
Beriz Belkic: I think that cooperation with The Hague tribunal comes within the competence of the Presidency, but that at the same time it is an obligation of the two entities and all the institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, of course, in coordination with the Presidency. When I say institutions, I mean the legal system, the Interior Ministry, and other bodies.
Omer Karabeg: Do people in the Republika Srpska find it necessary to have a special law providing for the extradition of indicted war criminals?
Jozo Krizanovic: I think that the approval of that law [by the parliament] should make it easier for officials in the Republika Srpska to begin cooperating with The Hague tribunal in a more...concrete way. This is why I support that law and do not think it is any sort of obstacle. On the contrary, I think that it will improve the cooperation with The Hague tribunal.
Beriz Belkic: The law is not necessary, since there are already clearly defined procedures. Cooperation with The Hague tribunal can take place without the law, since it is provided for by the statute of The Hague tribunal and the Dayton peace accords.
Omer Karabeg: But do they need the law?
Beriz Belkic: It is not necessary.
Zivko Radisic: I agree that membership in certain associations means that international law must be obeyed, but it does not hurt to adopt a law in order to deal with all the procedural and technical issues concerning carrying out those international obligations. It is a pity that it has not been done before.
Omer Karabeg: Now that Slobodan Milosevic has been extradited, The Hague tribunal insists that [Radovan] Karadzic and [General Ratko] Mladic be arrested. Do you find the army and police of the Republika Srpska able and ready for that task?
Jozo Krizanovic: I cannot say whether the army and the Interior Ministry of the Republika Srpska are ready to do that, but I think that [Prime Minister Mladen] Ivanic's visit to The Hague, as well as the approval of the law about cooperation with The Hague tribunal in the Republika Srpska, will create a favorable atmosphere for the extradition of [the two] (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). [But] I think that SFOR and the IPTF will have to help.
Omer Karabeg: What do you think, Mr. Radisic: are the army and police of the Republika Srpska able to do the job on their own and arrest Karadzic and Mladic?
Zivko Radisic: I would not call it ability; the point is who is competent to do it. There are legal institutions that have to deal with those requests.
However, I think that the most important thing is that nobody, no people should be anybody's hostage. It would serve the best interest of every individual and every person if those who committed crimes were held responsible, regardless of which army or people they belong to.
That issue will be resolved in the Republika Srpska once this law is approved. The law provides for extradition. As far as I know, the law has been [prepared in consultation] with...The Hague tribunal.
Omer Karabeg: Mr. Radisic, you claim that no people should ever be a hostage of any person whatsoever. Does it mean that you think the Republika Srpska should extradite Karadzic and Mladic to The Hague tribunal?
Zivko Radisic: All those indicted should be extradited, whether they are Karadzic and Mladic or Radisic. But, at the same time, those indicted from the Bosnian and Croatian peoples should be extradited as well. No people should be blamed for everything. It is high time to get rid of this burden from the past.
Omer Karabeg: Mr. Belkic, do you think that the army and police of the Republika Srpska are [in a position] to arrest Karadzic and Mladic, bearing in mind that the chief prosecutor of The Hague tribunal, Carla Del Ponte, recently said that Mladic enjoys the protection of the army of the Republika Srpska?
Beriz Belkic: They should be able to do it. All it takes is a political consensus and the will of the political leadership of the Republika Srpska.
Omer Karabeg: Do you agree with Carla Del Ponte's claim that Mladic is being protected by the army of the Republika Srpska?
Beriz Belkic: I am not aware of the facts and arguments, but I would not rule out such a possibility.
Zivko Radisic: Bearing in mind that, according to the constitution, the members of the Presidency are at the same time civilian commanders [of the military], I can say that the army of the Republika Srpska is not involved in that.
Omer Karabeg: So you disagree with Carla Del Ponte's claim?
Zivko Radisic: I would like to see her arguments.
Omer Karabeg: Carla Del Ponte's spokeswoman, Florence Hartmann, goes even further, claiming that the authorities of the Republika Srpska have contacts with Karadzic and Mladic.
Zivko Radisic: I am not the one to answer that question. I had no contacts with Karadzic and Mladic when they were in power, and I certainly have had no contacts with them since then. I really cannot say whether some political party or government body does have such contacts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2001).
Omer Karabeg: Do you, Mr. Krizanovic, share Carla Del Ponte's view that Mladic enjoys the protection of the army of the Republika Srpska?
Jozo Krizanovic: I cannot really say. I have no information whatsoever....
Omer Karabeg: If Karadzic and Mladic cannot be arrested by the army and police of the Republika Srpska, who can do it? SFOR is obviously not ready to take that risk.
Beriz Belkic: I think that the police of the Republika Srpska are able to arrest Karadzic and Mladic without anybody's help. All that they need is a political consensus and the will of the political leadership of the Republika Srpska.
Omer Karabeg: And does that will exist?
Beriz Belkic: No, not at this moment.
Omer Karabeg: What is your opinion, Mr. Radisic?
Zivko Radisic: I agree.
Jozo Krizanovic: I think that a process [towards creating the political will to extradite war criminals] has started and is moving along under the influence of The Hague tribunal and the international community.
What I find very important is the determination of the international community to have all those indicted for war crimes from all parts of former Yugoslavia extradited to The Hague. That must take place as soon as possible in order to help ease tensions, discover the truth, and reconcile the peoples of this region -- as well as to improve cooperation among the former Yugoslav states. But the most important thing is sending the message that crime does not pay.
Omer Karabeg: Do you think it is a duty of SFOR to assist in the arrest of those indicted, especially of Karadzic and Mladic?
Jozo Krizanovic: I think that such actions are provided for by their mandate.
Zivko Radisic: Whether it is SFOR's duty or not is a relative question. Anyway, they are competent because how else could we explain the fact that most of those who are now in The Hague were arrested by SFOR. I am certain of that, because most of those [arrested] are Serbs.
Beriz Belkic: Action by local institutions is necessary. First [comes action by] the legal bodies and police force, and then the logistical support of SFOR.
Omer Karabeg: Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic recently said that Karadzic and Mladic are not in Serbia. They are probably not in Montenegro, bearing in mind the Montenegrin government's stand about [being willing to extradite] people indicted for war crimes. That leaves the Republika Srpska. According to the Presidency's information, are they on the territory of the Republika Srpska?
Jozo Krizanovic: I must say, frankly, that I, as a member of the Presidency and the president of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, have no such information.
Omer Karabeg: Mr. Radisic, do you have such information?
Zivko Radisic: I have no such information, but I want to say that the Presidency has not discussed these things. I suppose that SFOR has the most accurate information, since they often claim to know where Karadzic and Mladic are.
Omer Karabeg: One should therefore ask SFOR for information like that. What do you think, Mr. Belkic?
Beriz Belkic: Unfortunately, the Presidency has no official structure to inform us about such important matters. That job is done by the entities. They have their ministries and their [governmental] agencies. We can only be informed by their interior ministries.... I can only say that my personal opinion is that they are in the Republika Srpska.
Omer Karabeg: Ivanic said that The Hague tribunal assured [him and his delegation] that indictments for crimes committed against Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina will be issued. He mentioned the crimes committed in Bosanski Novi and Bosanska Dubica. Mr. Krizanovic, what do you know about that?
Jozo Krizanovic: The Presidency is not really involved in operations involving the arrests of those indicted for war crimes. This is why I have no such information.
Omer Karabeg: And what do you know about the crimes in Bosanski Novi and Bosanska Dubica mentioned by Mr. Ivanic? Have you heard anything about indictments that are being prepared?
Jozo Krizanovic: No.
Zivko Radisic: I know many details and individual cases. I must say, with full responsibility and to be fair, that crimes...were committed against all three peoples and that all three peoples are victims.... I do not want to discuss who started it all, when, and how...since one crime cannot be justified by another crime.
But I know that for the sake of truth and justice, all crimes should be punished equally. And there were crimes against the Serbs, not only in Novi and Dubica, but also in Srebrenica, near Brod, here in Sarajevo, and in many other places. Finally, there is this center for documentation -- a new institution in the Republika Srpska -- which has already published the very first books with authentic stories about it all.
Beriz Belkic: The Hague tribunal will make no exceptions. I am convinced that it will not try to set up some sort of ethnic [quota system], but will indict individuals according to the evidence, not according to their ethnic origin....
Omer Karabeg: And finally, do you think that Karadzic and Mladic will soon be in The Hague? According to many, Bosnia-Herzegovina cannot become stable and make progress until they are arrested.
Jozo Krizanovic: I have no doubts about that. And not only the two of them, but all the suspected war criminals as well.
Zivko Radisic: Every people must be interested in bringing to justice all the suspects in order to remove the burden of the past.... I find it very important that The Hague tribunal is changing and becoming a genuine international legal institution....
Omer Karabeg: Since The Hague tribunal insists on the arrests of Karadzic and Mladic, who were indicted a long time ago, do you think that this is the moment for them to go to The Hague?
Zivko Radisic: The time is becoming ripe. The...new law...can only help move things forward.
Omer Karabeg: Mr. Belkic, will Karadzic and Mladic soon arrive in The Hague?
Beriz Belkic: I am convinced they will, since I find that the time is over-ripe. The tribunal will risk [losing] its authority and [compromising] the principles it is based on unless Karadzic and Mladic are sent to The Hague as soon as possible.