The government of the former Yugoslav republic of Serbia says an ex-Yugoslav army captain wanted by the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal for a 1991 massacre in neighboring Croatia has surrendered to Serbian officials. Captain Miroslav Radic has appeared before an investigative judge in Belgrade. The Serbian deputy prime minister, Cedomir Jovanovic, confirmed Monday that one of the most wanted war crimes suspects voluntarily surrendered in Serbia's capital, Belgrade.
He described the surrender of former Yugoslav Captain Miroslav Radic as "a defeat for those forces within Serbia who have opposed its transition to a democracy."
The United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague had indicted Mr. Radic and two other army officers for numerous killings near the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar during the 1991 war for independence. U.N. prosecutors say the three were responsible for the deaths of at least 200 non-Serb hospital patients.
According to the indictment, troops under their command removed the patients from the Vukovar hospital in November 1991 and transported them to a nearby pig farm, where most of them were shot and buried in a mass grave.
United Nations officials and Croats consider Vukovar, located near Croatia's eastern border with Serbia, as a symbol of Serbs' wartime cruelty.
Mr. Radic is the second alleged war criminal in this case to surrender. Another officer, Mile Mrksic, gave himself up to the tribunal last year and pleaded innocent. The third suspect, Veselin Sljivancanin, remains at large.
Government officials say Mr. Radic has already appeared before an investigative judge in Belgrade, which is part of the expected transfer procedure to The Hague.
Deputy Prime Minister Jovanovic said that, because he surrendered voluntarily, Mr. Radic could be eligible for "government guarantees," which could keep him out of jail pending his trial at The Hague court.
Reformist government officials in Belgrade, in a change of attitude that followed the recent assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic, admit that, while Serbs were killed during the Balkan conflict, Serbian forces were involved in atrocities.
Serbia has been under pressure from the United States and other Western countries to ensure that Serb war crimes suspects are brought to justice or risk losing financial aid and other support.