Mladic holds Serbia hostage - prosecutor

2011-02-20 22:05

Belgrade - Serbia's future is being held "hostage" by two high-profile war crimes fugitives, notably Bosnian Serb wartime general Ratko Mladic, the country's war crimes prosecutor said on Sunday.

In an interview ahead of a visit by UN prosecutor Serge Brammertz, Serbian war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic told Tanjug news agency that authorities were doing "a lot" to find Mladic and former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic.

But, Vukcevic said "unfortunately, not that much is visible" in the country's hunt for war criminals, a key aspect of Belgrade's hopes of joining the European Union.

"Only the result will be visible and the result is - Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic in The Hague," the seat of the UN war crimes tribunal, Vukcevic said.

"Until this is over, we will be hostages of these two people," he said.

He insisted that his office, security forces and a team charged with arresting and locating war crimes fugitives "are doing all that is in their power" to find the suspects and hand them over to the tribunal.

"I can only guarantee that we have acted upon every single of Brammertz's recommendations that we have been given," Vukcevic said.

Reward increased

Brammertz was to begin his two-day working visit to Serbia late on Monday, focused on talks with top Belgrade officials on their moves towards arresting Mladic and Hadzic.

His report on Serbia's efforts in locating and arresting the top fugitives, due to be presented to the UN Security Council in June, is a key element for Belgrade's EU integration.

The Serbian government has increased the reward for information leading to Mladic's arrest to €10m.

The former Bosnian Serb army chief is wanted by the UN war crimes tribunal on charges of genocide for his key role in Bosnia's 1992-95 conflict.

Mladic is considered the mastermind behind the massacre of 8 000 Muslim men from Srebrenica, the worst single atrocity on European soil since World War II, and the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that killed 10 000 people.

Both Mladic and Hadzic are believed to be hiding in Serbia and the failure to find them is hampering Belgrade's bid to join the European Union.