The European Justice: Blame Only The Serbs

Deportation of Veselin Vlahovic, who is accused of war crimes in former Yugoslavia, from Spain to Bosnia, became one of the main news of the last week.

A native of Montenegro, Veselin Vlahovic is accused of murdering over a hundred people, as well as rape and torture. In addition to war crimes he was involved in robberies and burglaries in Spain and Montenegro.

Spanish police detained Vlahovic on March 2 in the framework of a police operation against a group of criminals who committed armed robberies and looting. According to the detention order, the 40-year-old Vlahovic moved into this country eight years ago and lived here with fake documents. In Spain he is accused of committing several crimes, including aggravated assault on a house in Salou in April of 2005, which resulted in severe poisoning of a baby, who was inside of the house, with the narcotic spray.

The decision to deport Veselin Vlahovic to Bosnia was taken by the National Judicial Chamber of Spain and approved by the Council of Ministers. The court found that the offenses committed by this man in recent years in Spain were less important than those committed during the war in Bosnia.

Perhaps, the Spanish Themis exercised reasonable principle in matters of extradition of one of the war criminals of the former Yugoslavia to the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, considering the war crimes committed by Vlahovic far more significant than those committed in Spain.

But the British court for some reason did a completely opposite thing when it chose to defend another, no less sinister, war criminal, former Bosnian President Eyupa Ganic, accused by Belgrade for killing wounded Bosnian Serbs-militaries during their retreat from Sarajevo in 1992.

Last year, the Belgrade court made Ganic and 18 of his associates responsible for the death of 42 Yugoslav soldiers. These people lost their lives during the Balkan wars, soon after Bosnia declared independence from Yugoslavia. The Serbian side argues that in violation of the treaty about peaceful movement, a Yugoslav file marching along the road from Sarajevo and accompanied by UN peacekeepers was attacked by Bosnian Muslims.

64-year-old Ganic was arrested on March 1 at London's Heathrow Airport at the request of Serbia. However, he was released on bail of 300,000 pounds ($480,000), made by a “well-wisher,” who was described by the judge as “a very wealthy lady.” As a result, Ganic was held in the capital of the UK under house arrest.

Last month London court refused to extradite the Bosnian to Serbia. Judge Timothy Vorkman said that in Ganic’s case there were no reasonable grounds to further consider the case by court. “This process was started and is used for political purposes,” said the judge. Incidentally, he is known for the refusal to extradite Akhmed Zakayev and Boris Berezovsky from Britain on the requests of Russian authorities.

It is worth mentioning that the Ganic’s lawyer, Clare Montgomery, in turn, said that the involvement of her client with this case has already been discussed at the International Criminal Tribunal, and has not been proved.

However, Montgomery’s references to the objectivity of the International Tribunal in regards to the Former Yugoslavia are very doubtful. Especially after the story with the former Tribunal Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, who was accused of bribing and intimidating witnesses in the trial of the former Yugoslavia. Del Ponte received complaints from a group of witnesses involved in various cases related to allegations in crimes committed during the civil wars in former Yugoslavia. Witnesses claim to be victims of the pressure from prosecutors and say that their testimony was manipulated. In addition, they claim that they were promised payments for perjury.

British newspaper The Guardian quotes a confession of one Serbian witness, who said that he was offered a well-paid job in the U.S. if he gives favorable information to the prosecutor. Witness statements contain information about sleep deprivation during long interrogations, psychological pressure and blackmail, threats and illegal payments, the newspaper said.

The International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is the UN structure created to bring justice to victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the wars in Yugoslavia in 1991-2001, and punish the perpetrators of these crimes.

It should be noted that the number of Serbs convicted by the Hague Tribunal is several times greater than the number of Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians, who were also accused of war crimes in former Yugoslavia. During the entire period of the tribunal, 142 trials were held (including 92 against the Serbs, 33 against Croats, eight against Kosovo Albanians, seven against Bosnian Muslims, and two against Macedonians). These numbers speak for themselves.

According to some Russian politicians, the tribunal was created primarily to justify NATO's aggression against Yugoslavia. But now, as we know, Yugoslavia no longer exists as a federation. Hence, Serbia should assume the role of the scapegoat. Maybe that is why courts in various European countries use selective approach to the issue of extradition of war criminals in the various republics of the former Yugoslavia. Examples with Veselin Vlahovic and Eyupom Ganic are a good evidence of this.

Ivan Tulyakov

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov