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Croat General Surrenders to UN Court - 2001-09-25

A cabinet minister in Bosnia's government has turned himself over to the U.N.'s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. General Sefer Halilovic, the former commander of Bosnia's Muslim-led army, is charged with murder for commanding troops that killed scores of Bosnian Croats in 1993.

At the start of this week, Sefer Halilovic was still Bosnia's Minister for Refugees and Social Affairs. By Tuesday, he became the highest-ranking Bosnian Muslim in the custody of The Hague war crimes tribunal.

His indictment, which was kept secret until his arrival at the Tribunal's prison Tuesday afternoon, charges him with a single count of murder.

Prosecutors say he commanded the troops who killed at least 60 Bosnian Croats in a Muslim-led offensive to capture territory in southern Bosnia. The victims, whose ages ranged from four to 86, were almost all civilians from the towns of Grabovica and Uzdol.

As commander of that 1993 military operation, prosecutors say Sefer Halilovic should have prevented the crimes or, at the very least, punished those who committed them. Instead, prosecutors say he did nothing.

Mr. Halilovic, who left from Saraevjo's airport Tuesday morning, says he is innocent.

He was in The Hague earlier this year, but in a different capacity: as a witness against a Bosnian Serb general convicted of genocide for the 1995 Srebrenica massacres.

Chief war crimes Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte says ethnicity has nothing to do with who is charged by the tribunal. "It's massacres," she said. "Take a geographical plan and you see massacres, where. So let's see who is responsible for the massacre. And afterward we know if it's a Serb or Bosnian. But first we start we from the massacre.

Sefer Halilovic is expected to appear in court later this week to answer to the charge against him.