Balkan War Criminals May Face Arresting Force

By Colin Woodard, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 26, 1996 | Go to article overview

Balkan War Criminals May Face Arresting Force


Colin Woodard, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


A new US proposal to create a special police force to arrest indicted war criminals at large in the former Yugoslavia could be welcome news for the Bosnian peace process.

The continued liberty of war criminals has seriously damaged the integrity of the Bosnian peace process, analysts say. Observers here have long argued there can be no lasting peace in Bosnia without justice. At a minimum, they say, those responsible for ethnic cleansing, massacres of civilians, and running organized torture camps must stand trial for their actions.

Sources in Sarajevo say the proposal remains just an idea, with key issues yet to be discussed. And while the consensus is that such a force is needed, there is likely to be disagreement over details. Sticking points could include: Who would man the force; whether it would be an elite commando unit or a group of unarmed civilian police; and what kind of support the 30,000 NATO-led peacekeepers would give this force should it get into trouble. To date, only seven of 80 people indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague have been handed over by local leaders in accordance with the 1995 Dayton peace accords. The NATO-led peace implementation force has thus far refused to apprehend those at large for fear of suffering casualties and, therefore, possibly losing public support for the mission at home. US Defense Secretary William Perry met with his Danish, Dutch, French, and Norwegian counterparts last week and obtained broad agreement that a special police force should be established to apprehend those still at large. It has yet to be decided who would man and operate the force, which would relieve NATO's Stabilization Force (SFOR) from responsibility. "We have special forces trained to apprehend or take out people, but they do not have the appropriate training to carry out arrests for a court of justice," an SFOR official says. "We don't expect that our procedures regarding war criminals will change.

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