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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tribunal Asks Bosnia To Detain 2 Top Serbs

Combined Reports

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- War crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone Wednesday asked Bosnian authorities to detain two top Serb military officials already being held in Sarajevo while his staff investigates whether there is a case against them.

The announcement is a first step toward the war crimes tribunal indicting the men, General Djordje Djukic and Colonel Aleksa Krsmanovic.

It drew almost instant condemnation from Bosnian Serb authorities.

"I expect that someone intelligent and wise enough will correct this mistake, but soon. And if it's not soon enough, it will create more complication,'' said ranking Bosnian Serb leader Nikola Koljevic in Pale.

The Bosnian government considered Goldstone's decision vindication of its decision to arrest the men.

"We are sad, because we have to hunt war criminals in our country. But at least with this, the procedure which the Bosnian police used was endorsed by the Hague,'' said Kemal Muftic, adviser to the Bosnian president.

If indicted and handed over by Bosnian authorities, Djukic and Krsmanovic will likely become just the second and third occupants of the tribunal's 24-cell holding block here.

"The prosecutor has made the request in the light of information given to him concerning the activities of both persons who are regarded as suspects in connection with the commission of crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the tribunal,'' a tribunal statement said.

The tribunal decision will likely escalate the threat to peace in Bosnia.

The Serb army's deputy commander, General Milan Gvero said the officers must be released soon "if peace is to be maintained in Bosnia.''

Outraged that the officers were arrested after making a wrong turn near Sarajevo, Serbs have suspended all contact with the Bosnian government until the men are released.

Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, are among 52 suspects so far indicted by the UN tribunal. Of those indicted, only one is in custody, Bosnian Serb Dusan Tadic, whose murder, torture and rape trial is provisionally due to start next month.

The Bosnian government has provided few details about the arrested men, except to say that Djukic and Krsmanovic were believed responsible for mass killings of civilians around Sarajevo. War crimes investigators have this week been in Sarajevo interviewing suspects arrested last week by Bosnian authorities.

"Whether it will come to actual indictments, we just don't know,'' tribunal spokesman Christian Chartier said.

Djukic and Krsmanovic, arrested Jan. 30, are among eight Serbs the Moslem-led government has detained over the past three weeks.

Also Wednesday, Jean de Courten, a director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, said he was convinced 3,000 Bosnian Moslems rounded up by Serbs at Srebrenica last July were massacred.

After interviewing refugees from Srebrenica, the ICRC established a list of 3,000 draft-age men arrested by Bosnian Serbs as the town fell. The list was handed to Bosnian Serb leaders in October, but there has been no reply.

"I would like to say that the Bosnian Serb authorities have a serious responsibility for what happened in Srebrenica, and my conviction is that unfortunately these people are no longer alive," De Courten said.