Washington Post - Troops arrest Bosnian Serb wanted in war crimes

By Charles Trueheart

Monday, December 20, 1999

PARIS, Dec. 20 British peacekeeping troops in Bosnia today arrested a key Bosnian Serb general wanted on war crimes charges by the international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The NATO-led stabilization force monitoring the 1992-'95 war zone confirmed that Major Gen. Stanislav Ganic, military leader of the siege of Sarajevo, was detained this morning in Banja Luka, capital of the Serb entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

British NATO soldiers stopped Ganic at the wheel of his car, smashed a window to get at the suspect, and then dragged him out of the car and handcuffed him on the ground, according to eyewitness interviewed by news agencies.

He was reported en route to the Hague, seat of the war crimes court, for arraignment later this week on charges he committed crimes against humanity and other violations of the customs of war.

Between 1992 and 1994, Ganic was in charge of the Bosnian Serb Army's Sarajevo Romanija Corps when the city was under a brutal period of encirclement and bombardment that came to symbolize the human horror of the Bosnian ethnic conflict.

According to the indictment against Ganic, which had not been publicly disclosed before today, the military force he commanded "used shelling and sniping to kill, maim, wound and terrorize the civilian inhabitants of Sarajevo."

The victims included thousands of people of both sexes and the elderly, the indictment says, including "civilians who were tending vegetable plots, queuing for bread, collecting water, attending funerals, shopping in markets, riding on trams, gathering wood, or simply walking with their children or friends . . . The attacks on Sarajevo civilians were designed to keep the inhabitants in a constant state of terror."

Paul Risley, a spokesman for the tribunal prosecutor, described Ganic as one of the senior military commanders of that period who reported directly to then-Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and top general Ratko Mladic.

Risley said this arrest helped to "fill in the blanks" of unarrested lieutenants around the two major Bosnian Serb war crimes suspects. Both Karadzic and Mladic are wanted by the tribunal on genocide and other war crimes charges, but they have not been captured by SFOR forces in the French-monitored sector where they are known to live.

Tribunal chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte in a statement today praised SFOR for the arrest in the British sector, underscoring her determination to see more apprehensions of the 30 fugitives who have been indicted for war crimes in Bosnia and Croatia and more recently in Kosovo.

In a recent conversation in the Hague, where the former Swiss attorney general arrived as chief tribunal prosecutor almost 100 days ago, del Ponte said she was preparing a new round of indictments that would include for the first time Kosovar Albanians suspected of atrocities against Serb civilians in the Kosovo conflict earlier this year.

She said they would include leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army, but would not give any other details. Other tribunal sources said the prosecutor's office was a long way from having a prepared indictment against Kosovars. Del Ponte acknowledged that she lacked evidence that only Serb cooperation could provide. "The Serb victims are in Serbia, and I can't get access to interview them," she said.

Del Ponte said she had asked the government of President Slobodan Milosevic, the most important of the tribunal's unarrested indictees, to give her and her prosecution team visas to enter Yugoslavia early next year to investigate war crimes against Serbs.

Revenge killings and deportations of Serbs at the hands of Albanian Kosovars emboldened by the NATO-led air campaign of last spring have proliferated. The image of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the earlier victims of the same policy has embarrassed the international community that came to the rescue of the Kosovo Albanians.

The UN tribunal's even-handedness has also been tested in the context of calls for war crimes prosecutions against NATO forces that conducted the air campaign against Yugoslavia last spring.

Former chief prosecutor Louise Arbour ordered her investigators to look at the evidence of criminal responsibility for bomb targeting that killed civilians on trains or in buildings in Belgrade. Del Ponte said she had just received the report and would be reading it over Christmas.

Del Ponte also said she found no serious discrepancy between the tribunal's estimates of Kosovar Albanian fatalities during the recent conflict 2,100 and a recent State Department report that put the figure at around 10,000.

"I don't want to exclude the possibility that there are 10,000 [dead]," del Ponte said. "I've only looked at 160 sites [of graves or mass graves], and I've still got 360 or 380 sites to do. God knows how many I'll find there. It could well be 10,000."

But, she said, "knowing how many is not my job. That's a political job."


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