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War Crimes Prosecutor Presses Serbia on Suspect Support Networks

Serge Brammertz, the United Nation’s war crimes prosecutor for the former Yugoslavia, said Serbia must explain how some high-profile suspects could evade justice for years before being caught in the Balkan country.

His report next month on Serbia’s cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which will affect the nation’s chances of joining the European Union, will “not be positive” regarding the efforts so far in uncovering and punishing those who helped Bosnian Serb wartime leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic dodge arrest.

“How could these fugitives hide for so long” Brammertz said after meeting with Serbian security and justice officials in Belgrade today. Karadzic was arrested in 2008 and Mladic was caught last year, more than a decade after being indicted for their roles in the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

While praising Serbia’s level of cooperation with the UN tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, including “access to archives in relation to ongoing cases,” he called for “sufficient investigation in relation to the fugitives networks.”

Brammertz arrived two days after Tomislav Nikolic, a former radical nationalist who softened his rhetoric to enter the political mainstream, won presidential elections against incumbent Boris Tadic who led Serbia to EU candidacy. Nikolic’s former mentor, Vojislav Seselj, is on trial at the UN court and his supporters include Luka Karadzic, Radovan Karadzic’s brother. The UN prosecutor is not due to meet with Nikolic.

Conflict Nations Report

The bi-annual report, which also covers other Balkan states involved in the 1990’s conflicts, will be presented to the UN’s Security Council on June 7, Brammertz said.

Serbia became a candidate for EU membership earlier this year, following a favorable assessment by the UN tribunal that the country was meeting its extradition commitments.

Brammertz met with Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic, whose office has indicted 145 people so far, of whom 63 have been sentenced to a total of 741.5 years in jail.

The UN court in the Netherlands tries prominent suspects while the national courts in the region handle lower-level people accused of crimes.

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