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Bosnia Administrator Fires 60 Bosnian Serb Officials - 2004-06-30

The international administrator of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Paddy Ashdown, has fired 60 Bosnian Serb officials for failing to arrest war crimes suspects, including Radovan Karadzic, who has been linked to Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

Mr. Ashdown said Wednesday he has removed dozens of senior officials, including Parliament Speaker Dragan Kalinic, head of the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, founded by war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic.

Other government representatives who were fired include Interior Minister Zoran Djeric and several other senior officials.

Mr. Ashdown says it has become clear to him that the Bosnian Serb Republic, the entity in Bosnia also known as Republika Srpska, is ruled by "a small band of corrupt politicians and criminals" who, he says, refuse to transfer war crimes suspects to the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

"In nine years, whilst the government of Serbia has send Milosevic to [the Tribunal in] The Hague, the government of Croatia has send its war criminals to The Hague, and elements of the federation of Bosnia Herzegovina send war criminals to The Hague, in the whole of Republika Srpska not a single war criminal has been sent to The Hague. Not a single one," he stressed. "Twenty-three war criminals have been arrested on the territory of Republika Srsbka; every one by the international community."

Mr. Ashdown said he is especially disappointed that chief war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, who has been on the run for the past eight years, is still at large.

U.N. prosecutors accuse the former Bosnian Serb president of involvement in the 1995 massacre in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, where up to eight-thousand Muslims were killed by Serb forces.

Mr. Ashdown says the Bosnian Serb officials failed in many respects.

"The question we have to ask is: why should the international community put its troops at risk to carry out a function that is the duty of the authorities in the Republika Srbska to carry out? If this was just about Radovan Karadzic it would be a different issue. But it is not," he noted. "It is about a comprehensive, sustained, long term refusal to fulfill their international obligations to cooperate with the The Hague Tribunal."

Mr. Ashdown says failure to arrest Mr. Karadzic and other war crimes suspects is blocking the integration of Bosnia-Herzegovina with the rest of Europe.