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The BBC's George Eykyn
"Obrenovic is accused of supervising the round-up and execution of thousands of Moslem men and boys"
 real 56k

Monday, 16 April, 2001, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Genocide suspect taken to The Hague
Srebrenica refugees
Srebrenica was one of the darkest episodes in the Bosnia war
A former Bosnian Serb army commander arrested by Nato-led troops in Bosnia has been moved to The Hague, where he is expected to appear before the international war crimes tribunal within days.

Dragan Obrenovic is accused of involvement in Europe's biggest massacre since World War II, at the town of Srebrenica in 1995.

He is alleged to have taken part in the rounding up, detention and execution of thousands of Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica, and the subsequent disposal of bodies.

Let today's arrest serve as a warning to those with guilty consciences - it is time to turn yourself in

Lord Robertson
Nato Secretary-General
Witnesses said Mr Obrenovic was arrested on Sunday by Stabilisation Force (S-For) troops in the town of Zvornik in north-eastern Bosnia, near the border with Yugoslavia, and bundled into a car by a group of people in plain clothes.

He was transferred to The Hague overnight.

Lieutenant-Colonel Obrenovic was wanted under a sealed indictment issued by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague on 9 April.

He was charged with "complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity, murder and torture", a Nato statement said.

US role

The White House said the arrest "demonstrates that Nato and the United States remain committed in helping to bring indicted war criminals to justice as an essential step in consolidating the peace and promoting the rule of law in Bosnia".

UN war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte
Carla del Ponte has been critical of S-For
It added that US forces assisted the arrest.

United Nations war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte also welcomed the detention of Mr Obrenovic, noting that "we have not had any arrests since June last year".

"We hope that this will lead to other arrests in the next weeks. There are still some 10 fugitives in the Bosnian Serb entity," said Florence Hartmann, spokeswoman for the tribunal prosecutors' office.

Officials say Mr Obrenovic could make his first appearance before the tribunal on Thursday or Friday.

Srebrenica massacre

In July 1995, Colonel Obrenovic was chief of staff of the Bosnian Serb army brigade besieging Srebrenica.

That month, Srebrenica - proclaimed a safe haven under the protection of Dutch UN peacekeepers - fell to Bosnian Serb forces.

Lord Robertson
George Robertson: "Each arrest makes it easier to build peace"

Some 7,000 Muslims are believed to have been executed in the weeks that followed.

Since June 1997, S-For has arrested and transferred to The Hague 21 suspects.

One of Colonel Obrenovic's fellow officers at the time, General Radislav Krstic, is currently on trial there on charges of genocide. He is the highest ranking Bosnian Serb to go in the dock.

Three Bosnian Serb war crimes suspects have been killed in S-For snatch operations.

Nato Secretary-General Lord Robertson said each arrest of war crimes suspects made it easier to build a lasting peace in the Balkans.

Mr Obrenovic's lawyer, Krstan Simic, told Bosnian Serb Republic Radio-TV that he was shocked by the arrest on Easter day, "this most important of Christian holidays".

He said he was "appalled" by the fact that the indictment was kept secret, adding that Mr Obrenovic had said he was ready to surrender if the court issued an indictment against him.

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See also:

16 Apr 01 | Europe
Full text of Nato statement
10 Apr 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina
02 Apr 01 | Europe
Timeline: Bosnia-Hercegovina
04 Oct 00 | Europe
UN prosecutor hints at arrests
14 Oct 00 | Europe
Bosnia war: Main players
14 Mar 00 | Europe
Flashback: Srebrenica 1995
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