Wednesday

22nd Feb 2017

New UN prosecutor says arrest of Mladic, Karadzic still top priority

In his first interview since being appointed the chief United Nations prosecutor, Serge Brammertz has vowed that the arrest of two top fugitives involved in the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica remains his top priority.

"I will do everything in my power, everything I can to make sure that these people are arrested", Mr Brammertz was cited as saying by Serbian news site B92.net on Sunday (24 February), referring to Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic.

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  • The ethnically-divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica, also seen as capital of the Serb enclave of North Kosovo (Photo: UNMIK)

Both men are charged with war crimes committed during the 1991-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

General Mladic led the army of Republika Srpska, the Serbian entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina, during the conflict. Mr Karadzic was the political leader of Bosnia's Serb community at the time.

"I will remind the international community every day if necessary that it has the obligation to support us in this project and that there can be no long-term stability in the region if those remaining fugitives are not brought to justice," said the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Mr Brammertz, who hails from Belgium and is the ICTY's fourth chief prosecutor, has also praised the European Union's firm resolution to tie the fugitives' arrest to Serbia's progress on the road to EU membership - something known as conditionality.

"If you look into the past, everybody has to agree that conditionality was very successful in having fugitives arrested," said the prosecutor.

When asked about the prospects once the ICTY's mandate expire, he replied: "There must be mechanisms in place that those international arrest warrants will remain valid and that a mechanism, a body is created to make sure that whenever these persons are arrested in the future, they are brought to justice".

The message comes amid what are turbulent times for Serbia, as the country tries to cope with frustration over the loss of its southern province of Kosovo.

Serbs rejected Pristina's unilateral declaration of independence on 17 February, as well as the EU's 2,000-strong mission of police, customs officers, judges and prosecutors deployed in Kosovo territory.

Due to security concerns, the 27-nation bloc withdrew its staff from the Serb-dominated northern area of Kosovo last week.

"We have temporarily brought back our personnel but we will maintain our office in the north," the union's Kosovo envoy Peter Feith announced on Saturday (23 February), Reuters reports.

But the Dutch diplomat dismissed speculation that tensions in the north could lead to the partition of Kosovo.

"This country should not be partitioned," Mr Feith told the Financial Times, adding: "It should not end up even with soft partition and the creation of an entity, which would be severed in its links with the central government."

"The overall aim remains the creation of a multi-ethnic state, and not to do anything less than that," he concluded.

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