A former Yugoslav general who has been indicted by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague for destroying much of the old walled city of Dubrovnik, during Croatia's war for independence in the early 1990s, has surrendered voluntarily to the court. Pavle Strugar flew to The Hague Sunday from Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, the smaller of Yugoslavia's two republics.
General Strugar, 68, is the first Yugoslav citizen indicted by the tribunal who has turned himself over to court officials voluntarily. Before departing Podgorica, he told Montenegro's state television that he is convinced he will be able to prove his innocence.
General Strugar and three other high-ranking Yugoslav officers have been charged by the tribunal with murder and plunder, as well as willfully destroying historic monuments. The alleged crimes took place during the Yugoslav armed forces' three-month bombardment of Dubrovnik in 1991, after Croatia declared its independence from Belgrade.
The Croatian fighting set off a decade of wars in the Balkans as the former Yugoslavia disintegrated. Only Serbia and Montenegro are still part of Yugoslavia.
General Strugar has been hospitalized of late with kidney problems. The Montenegrin government says it wants the international war crimes tribunal to allow the general to remain free pending the start of his trial.
The retired officer's attorney says his client's first appearance before the court will depend on his health but could come in seven to ten days.
The general's surrender comes on the eve of a visit to Yugoslavia by the tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte. She has complained about Belgrade's reluctance to cooperate with the tribunal, in the period since the Serbian government handed over former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic earlier this year. Ms. Del Ponte is expected to demand that Yugoslav authorities surrender the other three officers who have been indicted along with General Strugar for the shelling of Dubrovnik.
The indictment against General Strugar and his cohorts says at least 43 civilians were killed during the siege of the city and that more than five hundred buildings were destroyed or damaged.