. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Balkan War Crimes Probe Gears Up

SARAJEVO -- War crimes investigators said Monday they would soon start work in Bosnia and a U.S. envoy demanded prisoners be freed as international attention turned to bringing justice to the country as well as peace.

A leader of Serb refugees living in Serb-held areas of Sarajevo said thousands were organizing a mass exodus by a Jan. 31 deadline rather than live in the city under a Moslem-led government, as the Dayton peace plan demands.

Judge Richard Goldstone, head of the International Tribunal on War Crimes in former Yugoslavia, said in Sarajevo investigators would start work in the field "in the very, very near future" with the help of international peacekeepers.

His visit followed an unprecedented tour of sites of alleged war atrocities on Serb-held territory on Sunday by U.S. human rights envoy John Shattuck.

Shattuck saw spattered blood and holes in the walls of a warehouse. Survivors say grenades were fired at the building, killing a large number of Moslems held inside after they were seized during the Serbs' capture of the of Srebrenica last July.

He also inspected a schoolhouse and gymnasium where, according to reports by survivors, people were held before being taken out in groups of 30 into woods nearby and shot.

Shattuck visited the devastated village of Glogova, 16 kilometers northwest of Srebrenica, where he said 2,000 people were believed buried.

A Reuters reporter saw a human bone, with flesh and rags attached, protruding from a suspected mass grave nearby.

The Bosnian Serb "interior minister" Dragan Kijac, whose police escorted Shattuck to the sites, said later that his trip proved nothing about alleged war crimes.

Allegations of mass killings form the basis of war crimes indictments issued by a U.N. tribunal against Bosnian Serb "president" Radovan Karadzic and army commander Ratko Mladic.

Bozidar Skobic, head of the Association of Serb Refugees from Central Bosnia now living in Serb-held Sarajevo, told Reuters on Monday: "Our D-day for departure is Jan. 31.

"For now it's impossible to live with the Moslems and Croats, maybe in 20 years' time. There has been too much blood spilt and disinformation, lies, lies."

He said thousands planned to start a new life in Visegrad in eastern Bosnia, which under the Dayton agreement will remain in Serb hands. The peace pact declares that Bosnia is a single country, but divides it into two "entities."

The military timetable of the peace plan is proceeding more smoothly, with most forces having withdrawn on schedule by two kilometers from their ceasefire line.

Shattuck said after spending the night in Belgrade his new priority was the fate of prisoners of war still held by all three sides in the conflict, despite a Jan. 19 deadline for their release.