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Bosnian Serb Authorities to Pay Compensation to Relatives of Srebrenica Victims

A human rights court in Bosnia-Herzegovina has ordered Serb authorities in Bosnia to pay millions of dollars to relatives of thousands of Muslims killed by Serb forces in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995. The court order came Friday as NATO-led peacekeepers announced they were closing in on Radovan Karadzic, who was the leader of the Bosnian Serb republic during the war in Bosnia.

The Human Rights Chamber of Bosnia-Herzegovina ruled that the rights of family members of Bosnian men and boys had been violated by the refusal of Bosnian Serb authorities to inform them what happened to their loved ones.

United Nations investigators believe up to 8,000 Muslim boys and men were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica in July 1995.

A panel of mainly international judges said that the leadership of the Serb entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Republika Srpska, failed to tell the truth about the fate and whereabouts of the victims in violation of the European convention of human rights.

The court ordered the families of 49 men listed missing after the massacre to be paid a combined sum of more than $2 million. This sum, however, applies only to those who launched the court case.

It is estimated that 1,700 more cases related to Srebrenica are still being considered by the Human Rights Chamber of Bosnia Herzegovina.

Sien Jones, a spokeswoman for the human rights organization Amnesty International said that her organization is pleased with the court's ruling.

"Amnesty International has welcomed the decision because we see it really as a first step in the long process to justice for the relatives of the disappeared from Srebrenica," she said. "And also for the relatives from Bosnia Herzegovina as a whole.

Ms. Jones is also pleased that the NATO-led force in Bosnia (SFOR), has begun an operation aimed at disrupting the financial network that is believed to be helping to hide Radovan Karadzic. Mr. Karadzic, who was leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the war in Bosnia, has been indicted by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague for his role in the Srebrenica massacre.

SFOR officials said in a statement Friday that they had stepped up operations in Serb areas near the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, as well as in the wartime Serb stronghold at Pale.

SFOR has been hunting Mr. Karadzic for years, but he continues to enjoy strong support among the Bosnian Serb population and has always been able to elude his would-be captors.

In addition to NATO-led troops, the office of the international community's High Representative in Bosnia- Herzegovina reportedly met directors of leading banks in the Bosnian Serb republic to in an effort to stop the funding of Mr. Karadzic.