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Saturday, 13 April, 2002, 00:48 GMT 01:48 UK
Hague suspects go to ground
Police officers stand on the steps of parliament following the shooting
Stojiljkovic shot himself on the steps of parliament
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By Alix Kroeger

When Vlajko Stojiljkovic shot himself in front of Yugoslavia's parliament on Thursday evening, it was a violent protest against the law on co-operation with the war crimes tribunal.

He and two of his co-accused, Nikola Sainovic and Dragoljub Ojdanic, were widely rumoured to be at the top of the list for rapid handover to The Hague.

However, it is a long list.

Around 20 publicly indicted war crimes suspects are believed to be in Yugoslavia.

Colonel Sljivancanin is reportedly walking around with a grenade in his pocket

Two of the four military officers charged in connection with the siege of Dubrovnik in Croatia in 1991 have given themselves up to the court. The other two remain at liberty.

There are also the Vukovar Three, former military officers accused of atrocities during the fall of the Croatian town of Vukovar in November 1991 - Veselin Sljivancanin, Mile Mrksic and Miroslav Radic.

Death wish

And the Belgrade authorities are also under pressure to give up Ratko Mladic, the wartime commander of the Bosnian Serbs.

Until October 2000, when former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic was removed from power, General Mladic was living openly in Belgrade. He went to ground for a few months, but then resurfaced.

Woman holds up a picture of Radovan Karadzic
Other suspects are not expected to go quietly
General Mladic, like Vlajko Stojiljkovic, has said he would prefer death to extradition, and has ordered his bodyguards to shoot him if he fails to commit suicide during arrest.

Colonel Sljivancanin, meanwhile, is reportedly walking around with a grenade in his pocket.

"I'll blow myself up if they approach me," he was quoted as saying in a recent interview.

In hiding

None of the main candidates for extradition shows any sign of preparing to go quietly to The Hague.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic and former army chief of staff Dragoljub Ojdanic are reported to have gone into hiding as the new law was about to be passed.

The whereabouts of two of the Vukovar Three are also unknown.

General Mladic has been able to defy the Hague Tribunal by appearing in public because he has been under protection from the Yugoslav army.

Ratko Mladic
General Mladic has said he would prefer death to extradition
However, on 14 February, an official from the Serbian Government, speaking on condition of anonymity, let it be known that his protection had now been withdrawn.

One recent report says he is now in the area around Niksic, near Montenegro's border with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The terrain there is inhospitable in the extreme, as the Nato-led peacekeeping force S-For found to its cost when it tried to arrest General Mladic's co-accused Radovan Karadzic last month.

Both Mr Karadzic and General Mladic enjoy widespread public support, despite their indictments for genocide and crimes against humanity.

None of this is likely to impress chief war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte when she visits Belgrade next week.

Mrs Del Ponte has repeatedly decried the Belgrade authorities for their failure to co-operate.

In October, she said the government's failure to grant the tribunal access to its records only fostered the impression that some people were not interested in establishing the truth.

The BBC's Alix Kroeger
"He vowed never to surrender alive"
Daniel Bukumirovic, Yugoslav journalist
"Stolilijkovic is unlikely to survive"
See also:

12 Apr 02 | Europe
Top Serb suspect 'close to death'
12 Apr 02 | Media reports
Former Serbian minister's suicide note
11 Apr 02 | Europe
Belgrade approves war crimes law
01 Apr 02 | Europe
Bosnia genocide suspect arrested
19 Feb 02 | Europe
Kostunica attacks Milosevic trial
30 Jun 01 | Europe
The Hague's wanted men
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