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Voice of America, 01-09-10

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>

SLUG: 2-280269 War Crimes Tribunal / Bosnia (L Only) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:





    INTRO: Monday was a busy day at the Yugoslav war crimes Tribunal. For the first time, three trials began simultaneously. The seven defendants -- five Bosnian Serbs and two Bosnian Croats -- are charged with crimes against humanity, including persecution. All seven have pleaded not guilty. Lauren Comiteau reports from The Hague.

    TEXT: Tribunal officials say the arrival of six extra judges in The Hague last week is part of the reason why they're able to speed up proceedings here.

    /// OPT ///

    The new judges -- who come from countries including Mali, Singapore, and Canada -- are here on a case-by-case basis to help out the tribunal's 14 permanent judges. And all of them were already on the bench on Monday, listening as prosecutors outline the three very different cases against the seven accused. /// END OPT /// Courtroom one's proceedings against Bosnian Croat Mladen Naletilic and Vinko Martinovic -- also known as Tuta and Stela -- got off to a slow start with Tuta's defense lawyer arguing he wasn't ready for trial and asking for a delay. Judges denied that request, leaving prosecutor Kenneth Scott with the floor. He said Tuta, as founder of the special forces unit known as the Convict's Battalion, and his sub-commander, Stela, were involved in ethnic cleansing.

    /// SCOTT ACT ///

    The evidence will show that Mladen Natelic Tuta and his troops, the Convict's Batallion, were right in the thick of it, right where they would so often be in the bloody months ahead, when Bosnian Muslims were thrown out of their homes, when their men were killed, when their property was looted and destroyed, and their prisoners treated brutally and inhumanely.

    /// END ACT ///

    The crimes allegedly took place in 1993 in the southern Bosnian area of Mostar, where prosecutors say Tuta and his Convict's Battalion were notorious for doing the dirtiest jobs for the Bosnian - Croat and Croatian army. /// OPT /// They included combat missions and military attacks, mass expulsions, the burning and looting of property and mosques, and using Muslim prisoners as human shields -- all with the aim of creating an ethnically pure Croat entity in Bosnia. /// END OPT
    But it was in the southeastern city of Visegrad one year earlier, say prosecutors, that a different ethnic campaign was maybe even more successful. In courtroom two, Bosnian Serb Mitar Vasiljevic is being tried for persecuting and murdering Muslims while he was a member of the White Eagles paramilitary group. Before the war, over half of Visegrad's residents were Muslim. Today, there's not a single one left, and prosecutors say that after Srebrenica, Visegrad has the highest number of people who simply disappeared. Prosecutor Dermot Groome said their tragedy began when they met the accused.

    /// GROOME ACT ///

    Mitar Vasiljevic is not the most infamous among the Tribunal's indictees, he is no powerful politician accused of the grand plans behind the carnage in Bosnia. He is a simple waiter -- one generally liked by Muslims and Serbs alike. But he is one who by his own hands committed an act which is perhaps one of the single most horrific and egregious affronts to humanity in the war, to the most innocent of victims.

    /// END ACT ///

    Those victims were some 70 Muslims -- mostly women and children -- who prosecutors say were trying to leave Visegrad. Posing as a Red Cross worker, Mr. Vaseljevic led them to a house where he said they'd be safe. Instead, he and two other men charged with him, burned them alive, shooting at people as they tried to escape through the windows. Five people managed to survive. They will come to The Hague to testify against Mr. Vaseljevic, who says he wasn't there when the fire was set. /// OPT /// There will also be other survivors: two Muslim men who survived a mass execution along the Drina River. /// END OPT /// The third case that opened Monday is another alleged case of ethnic cleansing, this one carried out in 1992 by four Bosnian Serbs in the Northern region of Bosanski Samac. Prosecutors say they all held high civilian or military positions. Bosanski Samac's former police chief, Stefan Todorovic, has already pleaded guilty to persecution in the case and won't be tried. Instead, he'll be called to testify against his former co-accused in the coming weeks. (Signed)
    NEB/LC/KL/RH SLUG: 2-280270Macedonia/NATO/Weapons DATE: NOTE NUMBER:



    INTRO: A Macedonian government official Monday indicated his government, despite earlier opposition, may allow some NATO troops to remain in the country beyond a September 26 deadline for collecting the weapons of Albanian insurgents. V-O-A's Barry Wood reports from Krivalak in the center of Macedonia, where insurgent weapons were destroyed on Monday.

    TEXT: The possible change in Macedonia's official position comes only a day after top government leaders met in Skopje with NATO's chief commander, General Joseph Ralston. While NATO continues to say that its mission will end September 26th, several member countries fear a premature withdrawal could create a security vacuum and lead to renewed fighting. A government official who asked not to be named says Macedonia might agree to allow some NATO troops to remain in the country as part of a U-N led force. A small U-N force in Macedonia from 1992 to 1998 is credited with helping maintain stability. The peace agreement between Macedonia and ethnic-Albanian insurgents was signed last month. Meanwhile, at the Macedonian army base at Krivalak, Hungarian engineers are destroying weapons turned in during the first phase of the voluntary handover of insurgent weapons. British Major Anna Kimber is a NATO spokeswoman.

    /// KIMBER ACT ///

    The important thing to note here is that the weapons are being deactivated, which means basically they are put beyond use before being transported to Greece.

    /// END ACT ///

    A special Hungarian team uses power tools to cut through the weapons, most of which are older rifles and grenade launchers of Chinese, North Korean, and Soviet origin. Hungarian Joseph Speich is in charge of that operation. He says his soldiers are accustomed to this kind of mission.

    /// SPEICH ACT ///

    We have done work by the C-F-E (Conventional Forces in Europe) treaty a few years ago. We destroyed more than 500 tanks in Hungary, T-55s, T-54s and other equipment as well.

    /// END ACT ///

    The weapons came to Krivalak by truck and helicopter. Altogether some 33 hundred weapons are to be voluntarily surrendered by the ethnic-Albanian insurgents who are then promised amnesty under the peace agreement. (SIGNED)
    NEB/BDW/KL/MAR SLUG: 2-280257 Syria / Turkey Terrorism (L) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:



    INTRO: Turkey's interior minister has (Monday) signed an agreement with his Syrian counterpart pledging the two countries to cooperate in the fight against terrorism. Amberin Zaman has the story from Damascus, where the agreement was signed.

    TEXT: There were broad smiles and much applause as the two ministers signed two separate agreements on cooperation against terrorism and the extradition of illegal immigrants. Speaking at a joint news conference, Turkish Interior Minister Rustu Kazim Yucelen said the signing of the agreements marked a crucial step toward improving ties and developing what he termed frank and open dialogue between Turkey and Syria. His words were echoed by Syrian Interior Minister Mohammed Harba, who said that Turkey and Syria had much in common historically and culturally. Mr. Harba underlined the need to overcome, in his words, the psychological barrier between the Turkish and Syrian peoples. Turkey and Syria have long been at odds over a number of issues, notably Syrian support for rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, the P-K-K, and Syria's continuing claims over Turkey's southern province of Hatay. Syria, in turn, accuses Turkey of diverting the waters of the Euphrates River, which it says are crucial to the survival of Syrian agriculture. Relations between the two countries have dramatically improved since 1998, when, bowing to Turkish military threats, Syria expelled the P-K-K leader Abdullah Ocalan from Damascus. Ocalan was captured shortly afterward by Turkish special forces in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Syria and Turkey now seem determined to set aside the past and to work on improving ties in all areas, including trade and tourism. Turkish Interior Minister Yucelen confirmed that Turkey's foreign minister, Ismail Cem, will be visiting Damascus later this month. That visit will be followed by a state visit to Turkey by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. No date has yet been set for the Syrian leader's trip. (Signed)

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