Failure to arrest Serbia's Mladic bad signal: war court

20th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Failure to arrest Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic, wanted for genocide and war crimes, would be the "worst of signals" for international justice, the UN war crimes prosecutor said Monday.

The former Bosnian Serb military commander, 68, is the most wanted fugitive of the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) based in The Hague.

"The non-arrest of Mladic would be the worst of signals for international justice" and "to those still out there", the court's prosecutor Serge Brammertz told reporters.

It "would mean you can sit out international justice over time," he said, adding it would have an impact "broader than the ICTY".

Brammertz said Mladic's capture was the priority of his office and vital for the stability of the Balkans.

It would be a "disaster for the victims" if he were not judged, he said.

He said the situation was far from perfect and urged the ICTY to bridge a "gap between the political discourse, what's (happening) on the ground and what needs to be done to be efficient."

Prosecutors have a "working hypothesis" that Mladic is still alive, Brammertz added, after a Serbian court rejected a request from his family earlier this month to declare the fugitive dead since March 1 2008.

Mladic is accused of masterminding the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left 10,000 people dead in 1995 and the July massacre that year of around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

He faces charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and has been on the run since the war ended in 1995.

Since its creation in 1993, the ICTY has indicted 161 people, including former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, who died in detention in 2006 at The Hague and Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb political chief, whose trial is still underway.

© 2010 AFP

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