16th May 2022

EU welcomes capture of Mladic aide

Brussels has welcomed news of the capture of Zdravko Tolimir - the third most-wanted Balkan war crimes suspect and close aide of fugitive general Ratko Mladic - with Serbia hoping its role in the operation will secure early resumption of EU integration talks.

Bosnian Serb authorities and the Hague tribunal for war crimes in former Yugoslavia, the ICTY, confirmed on late Thursday (31 May) the arrest of Mr Tolimir, 59, who stands accused of taking part in crimes against humanity during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia.

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  • The capture of Tolimir could speed up the search for top fugitive ex-general Ratko Mladic (Photo: Wikipedia)

Press reports say he was detained close to the Serbian border in Bosnia, only a few kilometres from the town of Srebrenica, where up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed in July 1995 in a massacre in which he had allegedly took part.

The operation was carried out by Bosnian Serb and Serbian security forces.

Local observers suggest Mr Tolimir's capture could speed up the search for his old colleague, Ratko Mladic, who is believed to be hiding close to or in Serbia. The former political leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, is suspected to be hiding in Republika Srbska, Bosnia.

"It is an important step towards bringing to justice all remaining fugitives," said EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn.

"Full cooperation with the ICTY is not only an international obligation but also a key step to achieve lasting reconciliation in the Western Balkans region."

EU talks carrot

Mr Rehn recently indicated that the EU could resume its negotiations with Belgrade over an agreement on closer relations with Serbia just days after the new pro-democracy government was confirmed.

Speaking to Reuters on Thursday, Mr Rehn said he would meet Serbian President Boris Tadic in Helsinki this Saturday to spell out the EU's to-do list for his government.

"We will focus on the relationship between the EU and Serbia and what preconditions there are to restart the talks with Serbia and what the EU expects from Serbia once the talks resume," he said.

The UN chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte in the Hague is also set to visit Belgrade next week after receiving for the first time an invitation directly from Serbian authorities. She will report to the UN security council on the country's cooperation with the tribunal in mid-June.

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