Global Policy Forum

Serbia Snares Top Bosnian Serb War Crimes Fugitive


By Slobodan Lekic

Associated Press
June 11, 2008

Serbian police on Wednesday detained Stojan Zupljanin, one of the top Bosnian-Serb suspects wanted by the UN war crimes tribunal, officials said. Zupljanin has been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and his arrest was greeted with calls for greater efforts to find on-the-run wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military chief Ratko Mladic.

Zupljanin, a former police chief, is wanted for alleged atrocities against Bosnian Muslims and Croats during the 1992-95 war. Thousands were held in horrific conditions in Serb-run camps during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia-Hercegovina as the former Yugoslavia disintegrated. Many did not survive and in the Prijedor area alone, more than 1,500 people were murdered in three notorious camps. "Stojan Zupljanin was arrested on the outskirts of Belgrade", Bruno Vekaric, a prosecution spokesman for Serbia's war crimes court, told AFP.

Zupljanin, 56, was armed, but there were no casualties during his arrest in a flat in Pancevo, an industrial town just north of Belgrade, according to sources and B92 radio. In The Hague, the UN tribunal confirmed and welcomed the arrest, along with the European Union and Bosnia, which expressed the hope that it meant Serbia was getting serious about ending its long-running saga of war crimes fugitives.

"This confirms what the office of the prosecutor has been saying for some time now -- that this fugitive and the remaining fugitives are within reach of Serbia," said Olga Kavran, spokeswoman for ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz. Haris Silajdzic, the Muslim chairman of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, said the arrest was "a step in the right direction." "I hope that Serbia finally understood it has to remove that burden ... and that the arrest of Karadzic and Mladic will follow soon," said Murat Tahirovic, the head of an association gathering former inmates of Serb-run prison camps in Bosnia.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana described Zupljanin's arrest as "good news." Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said it was "an important step towards full cooperation with the ICTY, which is key to bringing justice and lasting reconciliation in the Western Balkans." Serbia's full cooperation with the UN war crimes court is a condition for closer ties between the country and the European Union. Zupljanin was a former aide to Karadzic, who remains at large along with Mladic and another ICTY indictee, Goran Hadzic, wartime president of the self-proclaimed Croatian Serb republic of Krajina.

He has been indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICTY had also accused him of genocide, but that indictment was later dropped. His indictment accused him of participating in the planning, ordering or committing of the "execution of a campaign designed to destroy Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, in whole or in part".

Prosecutors said Zupljanin's arrest was carried out by police and Serbia's police intelligence agency, adding he would be handed his ICTY indictment and likely be transferred to The Hague within three days. The ICTY has been seeking Zupljanin since 1999.

His arrest comes just days after chief UN war crimes prosecutor Serge Brammertz told the UN Security Council that Serbia could do more to locate and arrest the remaining indictees. Zupljanin disappeared after his indictment was made public in 2001, and spent time in Russia in 2006, according to a report by the government of Bosnia's Serb entity.

NATO troops in Bosnia have conducted a series of raids to track him down in recent years, targeting the homes of his family and former associates. Most recently, he made a narrow escape in March after police launched an action to capture him in the southern Serbian city of Nis. A diary was found at the premises, offering investigators an insight into his whereabouts.

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