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ICTY Prosecutor: Capture of Mladic, Hadzic 'Highest Priority'

  • Margaret Besheer

A 15 Feb 1994 file photo of Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia says his top priority is the arrest of war crimes suspects Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic. Serge Brammertz told the U.N. Security Council Friday that Serbian authorities have cooperated with the court, but that efforts to find the last two fugitives of the Balkan ethnic conflict of the 1990s must be stepped up so that the court can conclude its work.

Prosecutor Brammertz said Serbian authorities have been cooperative, answering the court's requests for access to documents, archives and witnesses. They have also provided 18 notebooks containing what are believed to be the handwritten war-time notes of Ratko Mladic that were seized during a search in February.

But despite that cooperation, Brammertz said there have been few tangible results. He said the court has asked Serbian authorities to review their operational strategies to improve progress.

"We have recently asked Serbian authorities to step up search efforts by broadening their investigations, intensifying search operations and increasing their operational capacity," said Brammertz. "Decisive and intensified action by the operational services and political authorities is critical for obtaining the arrest of the two fugitives."

Ratko Mladic commanded Bosnian Serb forces during the conflict and is charged with genocide in connection with the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica. He is also accused of orchestrating the siege of Bosnia-Herzegovina's capital, Sarajevo.

Earlier this week, his family filed a motion in a Serbian court to have him officially declared dead. Prosecutor Brammertz said it is the court's "strong belief" that he is in hiding in the region and still very much alive.

The Tribunal is also seeking fugitive Goran Hadzic, a Croatian Serb leader charged with a number of crimes committed in eastern Croatia, including the murder and persecution of the Croat and non-Serb civilian population and the forcible transfer of tens of thousands of non-Serbs from across the area under his control.

Brammertz said Croatian authorities have been generally responsive to the court's requests for assistance, but that there is still the issue of missing important documents relating to the 1995 military offensive known as Operation Storm.

The prosecutor noted that next month would mark 15 years since the genocide at Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He said that while justice has been served in several cases, this painful chapter in recent history cannot be properly closed until all those responsible have been brought to justice.