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Key Srebrenica Massacre Suspect Transferred To UN Tribunal


The relatives of victims of Europe's worst massacre since World War II have welcomed the arrest of a key suspect in the atrocity. Bosnian Serb General Zdravko Tolimir was detained Thursday and flown to the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague on charges related to the killings of up to 8,000 Muslims in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest.

Under tight security, Bosnian Serb General Zdravko Tolimir left Bosnia Herzegovina for the Netherlands-based UN Tribunal to face charges of genocide.

Tolimir, 58, was a senior aide to the Bosnian Serbs' wartime military commander General Ratko Mladic when the 1995 slaughter took place.

The slaughter is marked by the United Nations as one of the worse cases of "ethnic cleansing" during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Bosnian and Serbian security forces arrested Tolimir late Thursday as he tried to enter Serbia from Bosnia. He was later handed over to U.N, authorities in Banja Luka.

Tolimir was considered the third most wanted war crimes suspect in the Balkans after General Ratko Mladic, former Bosnian Serb Army chief, and Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb President

In comments aired on Reuters television and other networks, relatives of those who died reacted with mixed emotions to the news of his arrest.

"This is good news for the victims, but it should have happened 12 years ago," said Munira Subasic, a representative of the Association of Women from Srebrenica.

"I hope that [Radovan] Karadzic and [Ratko] Mladic will come out from their hideouts as well to face justice," added Kada Horic, who survived the Srebrenica massacre.

Olga Kavran, the spokeswoman of the United Nations Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, shares that view. Kavran told reporters she hopes that Serbia will step up efforts to extradite war crimes suspects.

"There are still five remaining [top] fugitives, most of whom we believe to be within reach of Serbia," she said. "Serbia is in violation of many international obligations by not delivering namely Ratko Mladic, Radovan Karadzic and the other fugitives, and that does not change."

U.N. officials hope that Tolimir could provide key information about Mladic and Karadzic. Tolimir is thought by experts to have helped commander Mladic evade arrest since his indictment for war crimes in 1995.

The European Union has urged Serbia to transfer more war crimes suspects. EU Enlargement Commissioner, Olli Rehn, made clear Friday that the arrest of Tolimir would pave the way to resume stalled talks with the Serbian government about establishing closer ties.

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