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On Bosnian War Criminals: An Open Letter

The following letter was released at the G7 Summit on June 26, 1996, to the Heads of State of France, Germany, Italy, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Dear Head of State:

On behalf of 211 organizations and individuals, we respectfully call upon you to demonstrate the presidential leadership that led to the Dayton peace accords, and is now needed to ensure the prompt arrest of indicted war criminals in the former Yugoslavia and their surrender to The Hague for prosecution. As we approach the first anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, the men responsible for the killing and disappearance of some 8,000 Muslims enjoy not only freedom but power. The continued presence in Bosnia of Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic, and other indicted war criminals is poisoning the peace process, threatening the forth-coming elections, and undermining the authority and viability of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Decisive action is urgently needed before the important advances of the past year are lost.

There can be no question that the International Implementation Force (IFOR) is fully authorized to provide active support to the Tribunal. Security Council Resolution 1031 charged IFOR with ensuring compliance with the Dayton agreement, which includes a requirement that all parties cooperate with the Tribunal. Article 29 of the Tribunal’s Statute sets forth the various forms of cooperation that [are] due, including “the identification and location of persons,” “the arrest or detention of persons,” and “the surrender or the transfer of the accused to the International Tribunal.” Given the Serbian authorities’ utter lack of cooperation with the Tribunal, the task must fall to IFOR to guarantee that this historic opportunity to bring genocidal killers to justice is not squandered.

With the Bosnian government threatening to pull out of the elections if Karadzic and Mladic are not apprehended and Chief Prosecutor Richard Goldstone expressing increasing concern about the fate of the Tribunal without their apprehension, securing the arrest and surrender of these two indicted war criminals should be the United States government’s top priority in Bosnia. However, your administration continues to block the use of IFOR troops to arrest indicted war criminals. While we understand your concern for avoiding unnecessary risk to US soldiers, we are confident that the 60,000 IFOR troops in Bosnia, backed by the Pentagon’s finest equipment for intelligence gathering and rapid deployment, can find a propitious time and place to seize these two fugitives. Indeed, the failure to bring these men to trial places many more lives at risk, in Bosnia and elsewhere, by sending the signal that no one will be held accountable for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, whether committed against local civilians or international troops.

The failure of the international community to arrest Karadzic, Mladic, and other indicted war criminals is also having an increasingly corrosive effect on the political situation in Bosnia. The presence in office of the very individuals responsible for massive abuses over the past four years has assured that hundreds of thousands of refuges and internally displaced people cannot return home and that political opportunities for anyone but hard-line nationalists are sharply limited. Freedom of the press and assembly [are] severely limited, and violence against ethnic minorities and opposition figures is on the rise. National elections—a key step in the peace process—cannot meaningfully take place so long as Karadzic and Mladic remain at large. As the prospects for lasting peace diminish, the wisdom of placing 20,000 US troops in Bosnia in the first place is increasingly being questioned.

Apprehension of indicted war criminals is absolutely required if the Dayton agreement is to be saved and peace and democracy nourished in Bosnia. We respectfully urge you to order the troops under your command to make an immediate and urgent priority of locating these fugitives and identifying circumstances when IFOR can arrest them on favorable terms.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
American Friends Service Committee (Washington)
American Jewish Committee
American Jewish Congress
> American Muslim Council
Americans for Democratic Action
Amnesty International USA
Anti-Defamation League
Austrian Helsinki Committee
B’nai B’rith
Croatian Helsinki Committee
Czech Helsinki Committee
Greek Helsinki Monitor
Human Rights Watch
International League for Human Rights
International Rescue Committee
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
Ligue des Droits de l’Homme,France
National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA)
Slovak Helsinki Committee
Swedish Helsinki Committee
Swiss Helsinki Committee
United Nations Association for the USA
Vietnam Veterans of America Foundations and ninety-eight other organizations
Jean-Marie Domenach
Alain Finkielkraut
Valéry Giscard d’Estaing
Quintin Hoare & Branka Magas (Alliance to Defend Bosnia-Herzegovina)
Francis Jeanson (President-Association Sarajevo)
Tadeusz Mazowiecki
Karl Johannes zu Schwarzenberg
Ursula Owen
Simon Wiesenthal
Michel Rocard
Bernard Kouchner (Forum Européen pour la Prévention active des conflits)
and sixty-three other individuals as well as fourteen members of the European Parliament

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